How to use your physiology to change your neurology
Updated: Jul 5
What you're unlikely to hear someone say after 8 hours at a computer: "I feel so refreshed and my concentration and mood are at a real high now!" Just about everyone experiences that brain fog, that mental lethargy from time to time and often it's the result of excessive use of technology. Unless you've been on another planet for 25 years you'd also know that exercise has been shown to be not only good for the body but also the mind. Getting that blood and oxygen flowing to the brain is almost like a neurological reset. Depending on what you've read, you'd also likely know that 20-40 minutes of cardiovascular activity or resistance training is good for not only your concentration but so many other things- blood sugar levels, bone density, mental health etc Often though we wait till the end of a marathon effort of concentration before considering that doing some movement could be a really good idea. In practical sense this is a problem- it's difficult to make good and perhaps difficult decisions when you're tired. Ever noticed how hard it is to eat well at the end of a long, stressful day? You may well have used up all your mental reserves of decision making during the work day and simply want to chill out and watch some TV with a beer or glass of wine. The idea of exercising during your lunch break of course is not a new one. It's also accepted as beneficial, not just due to to the cumulative effects on your health from the regular exercise, but for improved concentration and productivity in the afternoon. What though if you don't have time or clothes or equipment to do a significant workout in the middle of the day? You could take a deliberate and good quality break away from your work/computer by just doing 4 minutes of movement
Even if you're under time pressure to get things done, it's important to take breaks to keep concentration and effectiveness high. The brain and hence your thinking responds very well to movement. (Check out this extensive article and associated video's and studies for a mountain of evidence). Kids school days are typically structured in such a way where there is some movement at least every 2 hours, in the form of a designated break or often every 45-60 minutes when there is walk to a new room or subject. Why not adopt a similar approach with your own work or study? Particularly if you are working from home? The video below that I've put together features some exercises adapted from sports specific warm ups. The idea being to change the state of your neurology by moving your body in several different but relatively gentle ways, in a small space, without any need for equipment, or exercise clothes, in the less than 4 minutes! Why not give it a go today? Of course make sure the space you choose is appropriate and safe, please don't watch the video while your actually moving! (although you might be able to put it in your pocket and listen to it) and take full responsibility for your own well-being.
Another couple of things to consider: *Sitting is considered the new smoking i.e. it's simply bad for you! Many of the fitness apps & devices have features designed to get you up and moving regularly for that reason. By taking a structured movement break you can counteract the negative effects of too much sitting while also adding to your daily activity level. * It's important to plan your breaks where possible. The general intention to exercise isn't usually enough, you get immersed in tasks and time passes by. Set an alarm so you get up and move every hour or 2 at the most. * If you are fit or feeling energetic you can make the distance longer than shown in the video i.e. up to 10 metres.
Get moving, give the video a try, you may be surprised just how much difference a few minutes of movement can make to your concentration.