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Which Exercises Target the Mind?

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The mind and the body are often tied together when it comes to our health. In recent years, scientists have discovered the links between a productive brain and a healthy body. The idea is simple: more exercise generates more hormones, like endorphins, that help the brain create neural connections. 

The more neural connections, the quicker you can think and adapt to life’s greatest puzzles. And it enables the brain to handle last-minute challenges with more versatility—and positivity. Still, the links between our physical health and our brains can be a bit murky.

Aside from a good approach to diet, sleep, and exercise, what does the brain need to out-perform its peers? Some would point to a mental game like poker to actually jog the brain. Poker, like many other probability-based card games, is linked to boosted memory, quick-thinking, and extended periods of concentration. Just skimming a list of poker terminology highlights how demanding and involved the table game is.

But when it comes to doing physical exercise to boost the brain’s superpowers, what can people do? After all, though helpful and entertaining for the mind, poker is often played while seated. Let’s cover four basic tips and tactics.

A Relaxed Approach for the Mind

Thankfully for couch potatoes, there’s no need to jump into a crazy fitness regime in order to fine-tune the mind. In fact, any sort of movement that gets you moving on a regular basis is a great approach to boosting your brainpower. This can be as simple as walking to work in the mornings, dancing samba or salsa once a week, or simply extending walks with your dogs on the weekend. 

Increasing your physical fitness helps increase energy, sharpens focus, and increases both memory and mood. As mentioned above, exercise helps boost the production of hormones and chemicals that your brain needs, including endorphins and serotonin. Best of all, these are both associated with happiness and connection.

A Direct Approach for the Mind

By incrementally making your lifestyle more active, you can improve your brain. However, there are certain exercises that are designed to push both the mind and the body. For example, swimming in cold water will push the mind and body to the limit. For those who haven’t undergone exposure to much cold weather, both the mind and body demand to get out of the water.

However, swimming in cold water has been shown to improve circulation and immunity while also burning more calories and reducing stress. The idea is that both the mind and the body get a boost. The body learns to handle challenging stimuli and conditions, while the mind comes close to what is known as the ‘pain barrier’. The pain barrier is simply a threshold of discomfort. While it shouldn’t be crossed, grazing the pain barrier in an exercise like cold water swimming activates endorphins.

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Interval Workouts (for the Brain & Soul)

For those who aren’t interested in diving into the (icy) deep end with an activity like cold water swimming, consider an interval workout. Interval workouts involve changes in cardio output. In other words, it’s about shifting from moderate to high-intensity activities, like jogging to sprinting. 

This type of activity essentially speeds up the brain-body boost of normal exercise. It speeds up the release of endorphins and serotonin in a shorter timeframe, which is a great tip to keep in mind when you need a way to boost the brain on a deadline.

Exercise Breaks for Productivity

Speaking of boosting the brain on a deadline, studies have shown that taking exercise breaks at work can help revitalize the brain. And don’t worry—there’s no need to find a cold body of water to dive into. Instead, by simply breaking up a sedentary work day with a brisk walk, you can energize your body and mind.

This comes down to blood flow. When your body moves, your circulation increases. This means that your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout your body—your brain included. And the more blood circulating in your brain, the better it can function.

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The Rx Review is an independent fitness website, reporting on the Sport of Fitness, functional fitness news, The CrossFit Games, health and diet related information, and also provides reviews on sports performance products.