Do you feel like your brain is tired — that it needs to rest? But no amount of rest feels invigorating? That’s because you don’t need to rest. You need exhaustion!
Healthy Mind in a healthy body
I always knew that I needed to keep my body healthy for my mind to be in peak performance. But I never understood why. Until I read this book: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
This book goes in-depth to why you need to exercise. I will not tell you that here; you should read the book — if you want to know. I’m going to tell you how you need to exercise so that your brain can feel fit and creative.
First, the routine
Find a way to do things daily. Not the same thing every day. Rotate what kind of exercise you do every day, but you need to have that daily exercise. It is no problem if you skip one day, just like it’s no problem for your body to not eat for one day.
Exercise is as important as eating.
Second, different kind of exercise
There are three main groups of exercises:
- Cardio: Aerobic exercise
Cardio, in-depth look
I think Wikipedia does describes it perfectly:
Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. “Aerobic” means “relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism.Generally, light-to-moderate intensity activities that are sufficiently supported by aerobic metabolism can be performed for extended periods of time.
It comes down to this: breathing. All exercises are light intensity so that you only use oxygen during exercises. Your muscles don’t form any lactic acid. Those are formed when you do anaerobic exercises (exercise without breathing or with too little breathing, like sprinting), or you exercise too hard and can’t get enough oxygen to your muscles. Your body will break down ‘glucose’ to ‘pyruvate’ to be able to maintain the exercising. Visualize a rocket in space. It uses its own supply of oxygen.
Cardio exercise is all about training the metabolism. Training it to be better at transferring oxygen all around your body.
Here is an example of a 15-min workout:
Endurance, in-depth look
Snippets from Wikipedia:
The need for endurance in sports is often predicated as the need of cardiovascular and simple muscular endurance . . . It can be shown that endurance in sport is closely tied to the execution of skill and technique. A well conditioned athlete can be defined as, the athlete who executes his or her technique consistently and effectively with the least effort.
The major difference between cardio and endurance is that you now focus on the execution of the exercise and do it as long a possible. Focus on the movements, increase the technique.
Endurance training is all about doing the exercises as good as possible. Bring the consumption of oxygen and energy to a minimum. Then do it as long as possible until the muscles have no more energy to spend.
These exercises can be walking/jogging, swimming, biking, soccer and so on. Pretty much every sport will be good. Just make sure that you don’t start doing anaerobic exercises.
Power/strength, in-depth look
When properly performed, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being, including increased bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and toughness, improved joint function, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, increased metabolism, increased fitness and improved cardiac function.
This kind of exercise will make you stronger; more resilient against the forces of life. Stronger muscles can pick up heavier objects or need less effort with lighter objects. Stronger bones can resist impact better. And so on.
However, this kind of exercises have some dangerous aspects. You will push yourself beyond your limits; to push your limits back. There are dangers involved with this (e.g., ripped muscles, broken bones, etc.). Do some research on the potential risks or get a coach. Or a gym membership. Most gyms have a coach or advisor at hand. Start small and build up when you get more experienced.
Strength training is all about going beyond your limits. Short but strong exercises. No cardio, no endurance, pure short burst of power.
When executed correctly, these kinds of exercises will tire your muscles for some days. Your muscles will feel empty the day of the training (empty as you have trouble moving anything more than just your body). The next day your muscles need to hurt (not too much, it needs to be fatigue pain, not damage). If your muscles still feel fatigued after two days, then you are in the sweet spot.
The easiest form of strength training involves weights. But there are exercises without them. Here is a list of exercises you can do (from Wikipedia):
Strength training may be done with minimal or no equipment, for instance bodyweight exercises. Equipment used for strength training includes barbells and dumbbells, weight machines and other exercise machines, weighted clothing, resistance bands, gymnastics apparatus, Swiss balls, wobble boards, indian clubs, pneumatic exercise equipment, hydraulic exercise equipment.
Third, why those exercises?
All those exercises are good for the body, but also the brain. I will talk about why it’s good for the brain.
Cardio training will increase the oxygen flow through your body. That includes your brain. Your brain takes up about 30% of the energy. Raising the demand from the body will trigger a reacting to optimize the oxygen flow to the body. The brain gets a free ticket to that increased oxygen flow. More oxygen means more energy.
Cardio makes it easier for the brain to work. No more fog in the brain, it’s all clear weather after cardio.
Endurance training will increase your capability to control your body. It will also increase your hormone levels of the things that make you smarter. It’s all explained in the book Spark so don’t look weird at me. I’m not selling you snake oil. The increased control of your body increases your ability to learn new technics. Both physical as mental. It makes it easier to comprehend the things that are new to you like learning to write a bike or a new language.
Endurance makes it easier for your brain to grow in ability. Less trying more acquiring. It’s all easy sailing after endurance training.
Strength training will increase your body restoration ability. It pushes the body to adapt to forces that are too strong for the body. The body will respond in becoming stronger; so that those forces are no longer too strong. But it will also react to the damage (in the form of fatigue) those forces did by increasing the recovery rate of the body.
Strength makes it possible to grow in faster chunks and recover faster from the growing pain.
Fourth, how come this works?
It’s simple. Our body is quite stupid. It doesn’t know that the brain controls everything. Or maybe we are stupid in thinking the brain controls the body? For the body, the brain is just an organ, just like the stomach or the liver or the muscles and bones. So when large portions of the body need more energy or need to increase its production or size, then the body will improve the performance for everything. Every part of the body works as hard as the rest, that’s how it is designed. If something is too weak, it needs to increase. If something is too strong, it needs to decrease.
It’s all a balancing act.
So when large portions of the body need to increase in capability, then the body will assume that everything needs to increase. There is some sound logic for that. One of the logic will be this: More energy is required; thus more food is required; thus a bigger source of food/energy is required. The brain is a part of the system that is good at finding better things. So it’s only logical that the brain needs to increase just as much, if not more than the rest of the body.
Exercise is a good life hack to train your brain while you train your body. Every training that you do that improves your body will reflect on the capabilities of the brain.
Training the body = Training the brain
Healthy body = Healthy brain
This article is based on knowledge from ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’ and personal experiences.