EXERCISE - ‘MIRACLE GRO’ FOR THE BRAIN

We’re all aware of the effect physical activity can have on the body – 30 minutes of heart pumping action, five times a week will see you well on your way to becoming that all round fit and healthy individual. Workplace Computer

But the effect it can have on the brain is lesser mentioned. Trickier to measure but equally as beneficial, modern research continues to demonstrate that regular physical activity can actually benefit specific brain mechanisms.

Research carried out by neurologists at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York earlier this year has found that just as exercise improves muscle tone and function in the body, it can also boost brainpower by building new brain cells in a brain region linked with learning and memory.

And according to the research findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, what's good for our hearts and waistlines also is good for our minds.

MRI scans of the brains of eleven healthy adults were assessed before and after they embarked upon a three-month aerobic exercise regime and it was found that exercise generated increased blood flow to the brain and the more fit a person became, the more blood flow the MRI detected.

Good news all round for those with heads buried in the books with the dreaded exam period on the horizon. Or even those whose only goal is to find the time in the working day to hone that torso ready for the summer swimsuit season.

Recognising that that key to keeping our brains and bodies in tip top condition is by getting up and active, the Sports Council for Wales has stepped up to deliver some heart-pumping ideas to help make sure that you’re always at your brilliant best in body and mind.

EXAM TIME: BALANCING EXERCISING THE BRAIN CELLS WITH THE EXERCISE BOOKS

It’s that time of year again! You can’t find a space in the library, you’re overdosing on caffeine, your housemates have turned into stressed-out versions of their former selves and your skin has turned into a strange shade of grey.

Yes, it’s exam time. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good excuse not to keep in shape and to scoff on sugar laden treats.

Exam stress can be tackled physically with small bouts of activity which can help to relax the body, relieve tension and help prepare the brain for its next intake of information.

As the exam dates draw closer and the pressure increases students may feel there is no time for long breaks to exercise but there are a few things that can be easily worked into study time, and don't take too long to do, but which will help ensure that the mind stays sharp for the tasks ahead.

  • Take a brisk 10 minute walk outside to revitalise the body and give the eyes a break from the books. Not only do you give your brain a break, but you are getting exercise and a good dose of fresh air to revitalise the grey matter

  • During times of high stress try something relaxing like yoga or Pilates to help relieve the pressure as opposed to taking part in a very competitive sport which can increase the stress levels!

  • Look at ways in which you can be more active in and around the house. Use the stairs to get physical, do floor exercises – even buy "Jade’s Dance Workout" if you think it’s going to get you moving!

  • On exam day, try to leave enough time to walk or cycle to the exam room. It will help you to clear your head and calm the nerves

BALANCING EXERCISING THE BRAIN CELLS WITH THE WORKING DAY

Exercise boosts metabolism, decreases stress and improves mood and attention, all of which help the brain perform better. It is also well known that exercise helps prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and stroke – all dangerous pitfalls of the working world.

Stress

For the office aficionado frantically juggling corporate entertaining between appointments, finding the time and inclination to develop a healthy lifestyle can be an uphill struggle.

Research has found that workers who exercise during the workday feel more productive and seem to handle job stress better than their sedentary colleagues.

There are active alternatives to the daily commute to the workplace that will free you from the frustrations and irritations of trudging through traffic jams.

For short journeys between 15-30 minutes, cycling can be quicker and is considerably more refreshing than being cooped up in a car.

Cycle routes, cycle lanes, traffic-free paths and parks make cycling to work much easier. It’s also one of the easiest ways for workers to fit physical activity into their day – the journey has to be done and doesn’t call on any additional effort!

And if your place of work doesn’t quite cut it as a sports stadium, there’s always scope for renovation. Your old stationary cupboard could hold a shower to hose you down after a bike ride to an offsite meeting and that patch of waste ground outside would look so much better dotted with bike racks.

Whatever the idea, the Sports Council has set aside funds to help businesses from both the private and public sector to implement the changes and help produce a healthier, happier and more productive workforce!