We all know that exercise is good for our physical and mental health but did you know that it could also improve our brain health?
Up and Down
Exercises, which involve an up and down movement, such as squats and press-ups, not only give your body a great workout, they also stimulate blood flow to the brain. As you go up and down, the blood flow speeds up and slows down. This change in blood flow to the brain, which in turn stimulates the release of molecules. These molecules move into the brain tissue and stimulate new connections, new neurones and new cells. This helps to slow down the ageing process as well as making you a little bit smarter!
Optimising Brain Training
If you want to really stimulate adaptation in the brain, you could even try doing a crossword or Sudoku whilst doing your squats or press ups! Listening to music or a podcast will also have the same benefits.
Research has found that just three to five minutes, three times a week can be even better for your brain than 30 minutes of steady-state exercise, like a run or a walk!
Press Ups and Squats
These are great exercises as they don’t require any special equipment and can be easily progressed and regressed. Start with a wall squat and progress to a sit down squat then a bodyweight squat.
How to do a Squat:
If you’ve never done a squat before or are new to exercising, start with a wall squat:
⦁ Stand upright, with your back resting against a wall and your feet slightly away from the side of the wall.
⦁ Open your legs slightly wider than shoulder width, and slide down the wall to a comfortable position (do not go beyond 90 degrees).
⦁ Press your heels into the floor to help activate your gluteals and return to the start position.
Sit Down Squat
⦁ Stand up, and position yourself in front of a chair or stool that is higher than your knees.
⦁ Bend your knees to go into a squat position, and touch your buttocks onto the chair.
⦁ Then, push up and go into the standing position.
⦁ Keep your hips and pelvis level as you squat, so you go down in a straight line. Be careful not to slump forwards as you squat, maintain good posture.
⦁ Take your legs slightly wider than shoulder width, and bend your knees (no lower than 90 degrees).
⦁ Your feet can be pointing directly forwards, or turned out slightly. Make sure you keep the middle of your kneecap in line with the middle toes of your foot. Always keep your feet flat on the ground.
⦁ To return to standing gently press your heels into the floor to activate your gluteals on way back up and lift your pelvic floor.
How to do a Press up
Start with a wall press up and progress to kneeling and then full press ups.
For more information, listen to the Michael Mosley “Just one thing” podcast on BBC sounds https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vp09