Healthy body, healthy mind

Blog on Brain Training

Healthy body, healthy mind

2015-04-11 14:42:01

Brain is one of the most important and inherent part of the body. When you make your body healthy, your brain becomes healthy too. As I am going to show you, there is a way to make a big improvement to the brain training - by adding to your daily routine some physical exercise. What kind of exercises are best and how much?

healthy body, healthy mind

Regular physical exercises are the best known panacea for almost every chronic diseases. First 20 minutes of even moderate intense activity like walking every day, extend the lifespan for an average 1 hour (Spiegelhalter, 2012). None of known interventions or drugs has such good impact on body health. And when your body is healthy, your brain is healthy too - brisk physical activity are today's best known cognitive enhancer with a very strong evidence.

Patrick Smith with colleagues (2010) checked almost all randomized controlled trials (the most reliable forms of studies) on subject, and found that physical activity has a modest but significant effect on processing speed, memory and executive function - it positively affect the whole brain. Few years later Marc Roig with colleagues (2013) have found, that acute exercise are better and has moderate positive effect on working memory and even large effect on long-term memory. However such effect is not observed for prolonged time - but why? It's because physical activity creates only the potential of brain power, stimulating neurogenesis and giving you more neurons to use. If you wouldn't use those neurons, they will die, because body is very economical, and can't afford such wastefulness. In short: Use it, or lose it.

Here is a place for computerized cognitive training. As I showed you week ago, training with games we provide on Brain Scale could be effective and challenging brain exercise, if performed properly. Research strongly suggest, that combined physical and cognitive training has a synergistic effect - simultaneous body and brain session work better, than brain or body training alone (Law et al., 2014). How makes the combination the most effective?

How to combine body & mental training

  1. No pain, no gain. Research suggests, that the most effective are short but intensive, 20 minutes sessions of physical and 20 minutes sessions of mental exercises. Your body has its limits, and you can't cross the safety line without hurting it.
  2. More is not better. Surprisingly, the most effective mental training is every second day. More than three sessions a week seems to be very inefficient. However you can do more physical exercise if you like and that will provide you more health benefits, but more than an hour a day is needless.
  3. Physical first. Train your body first, for example early morning and soon after train your brain.
  4. Train your favourite sport. Do whatever you like, as long as it is intensive and safe. Most cited studies have focused on cardiovascular exercise, especially on jogging, but few research suggest, that resistance training probably also stimulates neurogenesis (Liu & Donaldson, 2008). The perfect training is ancient yoga, partially because it combined the cardiovascular, resistance and flexibility training at once, and has meditation-like effect on mind (Longstreth, 2014). Other good, evidence based activities are dancing, biking or martial arts.
  5. Try music. One study suggest, that music during physical training improve motivation and session attractiveness, making it more effective (Satoh et al., 2014). It is possible, that when we enjoy our training, the neurogenesis is stronger, as some animal studies suggest.

    1. References

      Law, Lawla LF, et al. "Effects of combined cognitive and exercise interventions on cognition in older adults with and without cognitive impairment: a systematic review." Ageing research reviews 15 (2014): 61-75.

      Liu-Ambrose, Teresa, and Meghan G. Donaldson. "Exercise and cognition in older adults: is there a role for resistance training programmes?." British journal of sports medicine 43.1 (2009): 25-27.

      Longstreth, Heather. The effects of yoga on stress response and memory: A literature review. Diss. ROOSEVELT UNIVERSITY, 2014.

      Roig, Marc, et al. "The effects of cardiovascular exercise on human memory: a review with meta-analysis." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 37.8 (2013): 1645-1666.

      Satoh, Masayuki, et al. "The effects of physical exercise with music on cognitive function of elderly people: Mihama-Kiho project." PloS one 9.4 (2014): e95230.

      Smith, Patrick J., et al. "Aerobic exercise and neurocognitive performance: a meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials." Psychosomatic medicine 72.3 (2010): 239.

      Spiegelhalter, David. "Using speed of ageing and “microlives” to communicate the effects of lifetime habits and environment." BMJ 345 (2012).