Can Exercise Boost Brain Productivity?

Ever wonder why so many of the most successful people get up early in the morning to exercise? Strong body = strong mind and science backs this up and tells us exactly how and why.

If you’re looking to be more creative, productive and efficient in your work consider adding exercise into your daily work regime. Research also tells us results improve when you exercise in the morning or right before a mentally demanding task or meeting.

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In a recent article, ‘Can exercise really make you grow new brain cells?’ a neuroscientist shares her journey to a happier healthy brain.

This article intrigued me and really got me thinking. As a person who enjoys exercising, one of the positive results I get out of it is in how it boosts my own brain creativity right after a work-out. I never really thought about it from a scientific point of view until I read that article.

Part of me thinks ‘well duh’ it seems obvious after reading the article but I had just never put much thought into it. I simply liked the benefits of exercise and that was enough for me to stick with it. When I exercised I always felt great. I’m more creative, productive, confident, healthier and stronger. The benefits of exercise are endless.

Wendy’s journey in that article sparked a curiosity in me. I wanted to learn more about the science of exercise and how and why it benefits my work.

Why do many of the most successful people exercise?

Exercise routine of successful people - InnovaMap blog post

I started to think back to articles I’ve read about some of the most successful people who get up early in the morning to exercise. They obviously value the benefits of exercise. They understand that a strong body results in a strong mind.

Tony Robbins, the world’s most successful performance coach, used to start his day off by jumping into a hot tub of ice cold water. Now he uses a cryotherapy tank. He has an entire morning ritual that begins with this cold jolt to the system proceeded by breathing exercises, yoga and then a nutritious fuel based breakfast.

Consider, Michelle Gass, the president of Starbucks who wakes up every morning at 4:30am for her morning run. According to Michelle her morning run boosts her personal happiness and business success. I love her quote:

“When I’m at my best, it’s because I’m taking care of myself.” – Michelle Gass

Michelle’s quote resonated with me. Although I love to exercise, after I had my second child a couple of years ago, ironically exercise was one of the first things to go. With a 3 year old and newborn I was always on the go. Yes I was moving but I wasn’t making the time for myself to do more of what I needed for my body and mind. Eventually I got back to it and I felt I was far better at tackling the day when I exercised.

Richard Branson also has his own secret to productivity which, simply put, is ‘working out’. His very active lifestyle which includes swimming, yoga, running to rock climbing and so much more can all be attributed to giving him more productivity hours in a day and a big part of his success.

Can exercise boost brain productivity?

In a book by Dr. John Ratey, M.D., SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, he explains the science behind how exercise boost brain productivity. He explains that even in as little as 10 minutes of physical activity you can change your brain.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain.”- Dr. John Ratey, M.D

In order to keep our brains at peak performance, Dr. Ratey states our bodies need to physically work hard first. It’s built into our DNA. Many years ago physical activity was once essential to our survival.  As evolution doesn’t happen overnight our minds still demand and require our bodies to be at peak performance.

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He gets down to the science of this in his book through case studies, research, stories and even his own work. He provides a wealth of sound evidence as to why and how exercise boost brain productivity and overall performance.

Why is exercise so important in business?

Why is exercise so important in business
Image Source: Unsplash

The topic of exercise boosting brain productivity sparked something in me. I wanted to know more and I wanted to understand the science behind it.

In an office environment, the average person now sits about 10 hours a day. This includes office related work as well as time spent at home relaxing on the couch watching TV. We live in an era of sedentary lifestyles. The problem is we aren’t built to live that way.

As a strategic writer and content marketer I somewhat fall into this category as a big part of my job is sitting down at my desk. Although I do exercise on a regular basis I am also guilty of not moving for hours at a time when I am deeply involved in my work.

I am also a mother with two young children witnessing a new era. I did not grow up surrounded by technology. Much of my day was spent blazing around outdoors or in creative play. My children are among many growing up in a world surrounded by technology. This isn’t a bad thing but it is a new era and one that we need to approach intelligently.

While technology like fitness apps and gadgets are great for helping us to get moving and social media is great for helping us stay connected there is a shift. We see it in how we communicate and we see it in our limited physical activity. We just need to learn how to adapt.

Dr. Ratey research proves a direct connection in cognitive flexibility (brain performance) after a workout. This got me thinking about the results of my own creativity after I work-out. His research proves if you are about to attend an intellectually demanding meeting consider doing a run or brief intense work-out right before to get those neurons firing on all cylinders.

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If you reflect back to the times when you have worked-out, how did you feel afterwards? That surge of adrenaline, that boost of creativity and performance that follows your work-out is a direct result of the positive chemical reaction happening in your brain. It’s really quite fascinating and his research goes into great length as to why that is.

Why should this matter to you?

Simply put, healthy employees result in less sick days and more productivity.

As no job comes without stress, Dr. Ratey goes on to explain the mechanical level of exercise in how it increases the efficiency of the cardiovascular system and lowers blood pressure. He also shares studies that demonstrate employees who exercise on a regular basis actually have fewer sick days.

In a healthy companies to work for in the United States article, General Electric, Whole Foods Market, Microsoft and Google for instance were mentioned as some of the best companies to work for.  From offering a number of health packages, fitness reimbursements, free gym memberships, access to medical and health support, these companies understand the benefits of health and exercise.

They understand that creating a healthy happy environment is more important than the occasional pat on the back or team paid lunch. It is so much more than that and in the age of the millennials who demand work life balance it is more important than ever.

Now as I begin my journey of training for my very first half-marathon this year I take many lessons from this research. I have a new appreciation and motivation than I ever did before.  I now understand the science and benefits when I exercise in both my work and personal life.

Can exercise boost brain productivity? InnovaMap blog post. Science Content Marketing
Here’s me with my sister after our 10K run back in 2005. Now I’m stepping it up a notch as I train for my first half marathon this year.

It is my hope that you too will find value in exercise as part of your daily regime and appreciate how much it can boost brain productivity and creativity.

I leave you with this. Almost everyone can benefit from some form of exercise. While it is often the first thing to go when we are busy it should actually be the very last. Happy exercising!

Edited photo - Diana Diana Davies-Harju, Partner, Marketing at InnovaMap

InnovaMap – we use the science of marketing to connect you with your target audience.

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