5 Concepts for Better Brain and Body Function
Physical movement is a big part of a healthy lifestyle; however, 82% of Canadians don't get enough exercise. This can lead to better brain health and a stronger body-brain connection. Brain-based training also improves athletic performance and can help heal neurological conditions.
Knowing the basics to begin addressing the body-brain connection can help. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Keep reading as we explore five concepts that will help you build your body and brain health.
1. Find Your Minimum Effective Dose
Finding your minimum effective dose is all about discovering the optimal amount of exercise or mental stimulation needed to achieve desired results without overdoing it.
In terms of physical fitness, this means finding the sweet spot where you're exercising enough to reap the benefits but not pushing yourself beyond what your body can handle. Research has shown that a moderate amount of exercise a few times per week delivers all the protective health benefits, yet doing too much (or sitting on the couch 24/7) has harmful effects.
This could mean shorter, more intense workouts instead of long hours at the gym. Focusing on quality rather than quantity will maximize your gains while minimizing the risk of injury or burnout.
2. Stack Good Habits but Start With One
The idea here is simple: instead of trying to tackle multiple habits at once, start with just one and build from there.
Why is this approach effective? By focusing on one habit at a time, you're able to give your full attention and energy to making it stick. This increases the likelihood of success and helps create a solid foundation for future habits.
For example, let's say you want to improve your fitness level. Instead of diving headfirst into an intense workout routine while trying to eat healthier and get more sleep, start by committing to 30 minutes of exercise every day. Once this becomes second nature, you can then add in other healthy habits like eating more fruits and vegetables or prioritizing quality sleep.
By stacking good habits in this way, you're not overwhelming yourself with too much change all at once. This gradual approach allows for sustainable progress over time.
Another benefit of starting with one habit is the sense of accomplishment that comes with successfully implementing it into your routine. This feeling of achievement can help motivate you to continue building upon your initial habit stack.
3. Balance Training
Balance training is an essential component of brain-based training that often gets overlooked. When we think about fitness, we tend to focus on strength and endurance, but neglecting balance can lead to an increased risk of falls and injuries.
Incorporating balance exercises into your routine improves physical stability and enhances cognitive function.
Better Balance = Better Cognition and Learning
More and more research is coming out connecting the vestibular system (our inner ear/balance mechanism) to COGNITION and an interesting but very important area of the brain called the CEREBELLUM.
We've known for a while now through neuroscience research that the cerebellum helps with the ABCs of movement (Accuracy, Balance, and Coordination). However, through new research, neuroscientists are now theorizing that the cerebellum also helps with the accuracy, coordination, and focus of our thoughts as well!
There are various ways to incorporate balance training into your workouts. You can start with simple exercises like standing on one leg or walking in a straight line while focusing on maintaining stability. You'll do heel-to-toe walking while envisioning that you're on a balance beam.
You can walk forward or backward as you begin to incorporate balance exercises. As you progress, you will introduce more advanced movements.
This can include single-leg squats or lateral lunges and moving the head while your eyes are fixed on a target in front of you.
4. Fix Your Sleep
Sleep is when the brain recovers, cleans itself from the previous day's load, and consolidates the new information. It takes energy to sleep and to restore your resources.
The vagus nerve plays a huge role in decompressing the whole system and sending proper signals to the brain to improve the parasympathetic nervous system. One way to stimulate your vagus nerve is through Xen by Neuvana.
Breathing meditations are also a method of vagus nerve stimulation that can help you achieve a sense of calm.
The 4-7-8 breathing pattern refers to breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and then exhaling for eight seconds. This breathing pattern has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve and promote relaxation effectively.
To try it, start by finding a relaxing place to sit or lie down. Then, begin by breathing in through your nose for four seconds. Next, hold your breath for seven seconds.
Finally, exhale slowly through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this breathing pattern for as long as you like; you can even do it multiple times per day!
Other tips include:
- Implement a pre-bed routine
- Dim lights
- Stop screen time
- Listen to relaxing music
- Read a physical book
- Create a sleep schedule
- 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night
5. Work the Cardiovascular System and Make It Fun
What if you don't love cardio? Can you get your heart rate up and enjoy cardiovascular improvements through an activity that is fun?
YES, and you should find something you enjoy and actually find fun because it will encourage the capability to continue that form of exercising habit with the consistency needed to enjoy all the benefits.
Some fun and playful exercises to try include:
- Playing frisbee
- Martial arts
- Walk a dog
You don't want your brain making the association that exercise = pain or that exercise = boredom because not many people try to make a lifestyle of painful or boring habits!
Brain-Based Training for a Healthy Lifestyle
By incorporating the five concepts discussed in this article, your minimum effective dose, stacking good habits, balancing training, fixing your sleep, and working the cardiovascular system can enhance brain-based training and improve both your mental and physical performance.
At Align for Performance, we've helped thousands of people from all walks of life. We believe you can unlock your full health potential by caring for both the muscles that move you and the neurons that guide them. Book an appointment to get started today.