A Proven Way to Boost Brain Performance in 30 Minutes

Cognitive performance can be improved!
Cognitive performance can be improved!

You’ve heard the hype: ‘supplements’ that boost brain performance, games that improve your IQ, toys for toddlers that’ll make them the next Mozart.  Although some companies may claim an extreme brain boost at an extreme price, the verdict is still out on if the products offer a real boost to brain performance apart from the placebo effect. Much to the delight of such product peddlers, the lack of concrete research doesn’t detract the people who are driven to gain any advantage they can in the race to achieve more.

Research and the Proven Way to Boost Cognitive Functioning
Reading ‘Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School’ by John Medina, I came across a study at Nihon Fukushi University in Japan testing the benefits of jogging on mental performance, such as memory, perception and thinking over a 12-week period. The researchers, lead by Dr. Kisou Kubota, found that jogging significantly improved the mental performance of the group that had been asked to jog, while the performance of the group that had not participated in the jogging remained the same. They also found that once the jogging regimen stopped, so did the benefits of the mental performance boost.

Another study at the National Institute of Aging showed that exercise ‘has profound benefits for brain function.’ By keeping an active lifestyle and complementing it with a healthy diet, this not only boosts the performance of the brain but also delays the effects of aging.

Exercise also improves grades in school-aged children
A National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that students who do not get sufficient physical activity are much more likely to receive poor grades in school compared to students that engage in physical activity. (Physical activity in this survey was defined as activity that gets children to sweat at least 5 or more days a week.)

Slow Down Cognitive Decline in Your Later Years
Long-term research study was conducted on elderly women aged 71-80 and found that women who were the most active (over 1:30 hours of walking a week) saw significantly better cognitive functioning than that of their more sedentary counterparts. This is also true for elderly males, as a study found that males aged 71-93 who walked more than 2 miles (3.2 km) a day were around 2 times less likely to develop dementia than males who walked less than 0.25 miles (0.4 km) a day!

How much exercise do we need to improve brain performance?
So you might ask, “How much exercise do I need to get the benefits?” A study from the University of Georgia found that moderate exercise of up to 60 minutes improves brain performance. On the other hand, extremely strenuous and extended exercise will lower brain performance for the short period one is tired and dehydrated. Studies have also shown that exercise in short bursts of 10 minutes 3 times a day yielded the same results as one 30 minute exercise session to improve cardiovascular health. With the improvement of the cardiovascular system, more fresh oxygen is introduced into both the body and brain, thus helping boost brain performance.

You will also want to consider your physical condition before you begin or up your exercise schedule. If you’re uninterested in jogging, try walking around the block for 15-30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week and if you’re just starting off, aim to break a light sweat. The key is to start moving your body and get your blood flowing to your brain.

Do I have time to exercise?
When we’re hit with a last minute work project, a call from a friend to hang out, your child’s science project that’s due tomorrow or any number of things that could happen and do happen, exercise and sleep usually take the back seat. Although a regular exercise schedule is ideal, if you’re on a time crunch, use lunchtime to get some exercise in. Don’t want to get too sweaty while exercising? Try these exercises without breaking a sweat and if you do, here are 4 ways to combat sweat. Use the often-missed opportunities to get moving. Do you need to go to the water cooler? Take the long way and get an extra few steps in. Get creative, move your body and get smarter!

Many other benefits of exercise
It’s been said time and time again that exercise has benefits beyond just losing weight. But to drive home the importance, here are some more benefits of exercise:

  • Fight depression
  • Improve body functioning
  • Improved mood
  • Stronger muscles and bones
  • Boost your energy
  • Get better sleep

And much more!

WB Summary:

  • Exercise has been empirically proven to improve cognitive performance in every age group.
  • Exercise significantly helps fight dementia in your later years.
  • Exercise regularly for benefits. Once you stop exercising, the benefits will start diminishing
  • Exercise with your physical condition in mind. Too much is too much. Know your limitations.
  • If you haven’t started exercising, get started. The key is to get your body moving.
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21 thoughts on “A Proven Way to Boost Brain Performance in 30 Minutes”

    1. @Gordie: Oxygen to the brain definitely helps with cognitive performance. With more exercise, there’s more blood flow within the body, which creates more blood vessels. This allows for more fresh oxygenated blood to be delivered to our body and our brains. Thanks for bringing this up!

  1. A day without moving, some form of getting out of the chair and start the blood flowing makes me soooo sluggish. I believe it exercise (not iron man training) is the key to good health, along with a moderate diet of course.

    1. @Hal: Yup, the beauty of this is that we don’t need to be training as if we’re running a marathon. Just taking 15-30 min out of our day for a light jog or a walk has many benefits!

  2. Ken,

    As I’ve become an avid surfer I’ve found all of the above to be true. I’ve become more aware, my mind moves faster and I feel almost as if I’m aging in reverse. Maybe I’ve discovered the fountain of youth 🙂

  3. Even getting a few minutes of sun and fresh air improves how I’m feeling on days I don’t go for a run. Thanks for the reminders of the long-term benefits of staying active!

    1. @Stacey: Sun = Vitamin D. If you work in an office environment it’s quite difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Ken, from the foot of Mount Fuji, thanks for your informative post. We are alive because of the air we breathe, the sunlight that activates our system, and the water that nourishes our cells. When we move our bodies we move the flow of life energy through our limbs and organs. Exercise connects us better and more deeply with our life source. Here in the mountains of Japan where I live incredibly healthy people in their late 80’s still walk up steep hills and tend their vegetable fields. And I feel so invigorated and joyful after doing my energy medicine exercises outdoors or after chopping wood for the fire in this ancient Japanese minka. We truly were born to move and breathe and experience our many natural senses. By the way, wasabi grows in the small stream that runs by my house and we eat the fresh leaves with soba noodles. Thanks for your very enjoyable blog, Ken.
    .-= Catrien Ross´s last blog ..Catrien Ross on Leaping Beyond Your Comfort Zone to a Greater Self =-.

    1. @Catrien: I’d love to get a hold of some fresh wasabi! When I lived in Japan, I also observed the vitality and health of the older generation. It was amazing how a 80 year old grandmothers and grandfathers would out walk her grandchildren. Thank you for your comment!

    1. @Dena: It really does help clear some of the stress of the day, not to mention boosting your cognition!

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  6. Oh Ken, I loved this post and find it inspiring. I had recently read something about elderly people in regard to lack of movement and exercise was also related to a shrinking of the size of the brain, which the researcher connected to Alzheimer disease .

    What I like most about your article is the “begin where you are” approach. Not all of us want to get up and run four miles every morning, or do the iron man thing. Yet your suggestions about walking around the block, and simply taking opportunities to move more are quite encouraging. Oxygen is good. Love it. Thanks,

    1. @Erin: I hope you’ve been well! Usually, when we think ‘exercise’ we think ‘sweat dripping down our face, trying to catch our breath’ type exertion, but a nice brisk walk around the block can and does help our body and mind. If we’re not accustomed to exercising, we need to start at where we’re most comfortable.

  7. I’m kind of a nerd for empirical research, so I love that you incorporate study findings into your posts to back up what you write. Thanks!

  8. Exercise really helps improve the overall quality of life. I used to be a couch potato back in 2007. I was challenged to enroll in a gym. I did and my body improved. So did my performance at work. but now that I’m swamped with work, I tend to forget my 3X a week workout.

    I sometimes substitute walking in the mall for exercise. haha. Here in Manila, we have like 15-20 malls that are just within 5-15 kilometers away from each other! LOL.

    I walk a lot in the malls (but I try not to buy stuff a lot) but I don’t sweat much, thanks to the AC. 😀

    1. @Mighty: Walking is much better than being a couch potato! Maybe something called the ‘mall workout’ can be the next big thing.

  9. Wow! This is a very good read. Thank you for this. I appreciate articles like this one. So off I go and better start those exercises! I guess I’ll see you around. 😉

    1. @Martin Moving your body really does wonders for both the body and the mind. I’ve noticed dramatic results after a month of consistent jogging.

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