Editor's Note: This post was originally published May 2017 and has recently been updated and revised for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
We all want to hit the gym at some point in our lives in an attempt to get the perfect beach body for the summer, or simply to tone our muscles and stay in shape. Building muscles might be our goal, but how often do we think about building our brain? Chances are that most people don’t even realize the positive impacts of physical exercise on brain power and function.
According to several studies and researches, a single exercise session can help enhance our cognitive abilities and improve mental focus better than a cup of coffee can. A study conducted on teens and young adults also found out that 10 to 40 minutes of physical exercise can boost your brain power and can also increase concentration levels by improving blood flow to the brain.
Hence, here are the top 9 exercises to increase your brain power and keep you mentally charged;
Squat your way through brain fatigue
While squats may seem like a very common or mainstream exercise, recent developments have come up with a very unusual twist to it. This upgraded version of squats has been found to improve mental health and has come across as a very useful exercise to alleviate brain fog or any kind of mental dullness.
To get started with this exercise, you need to stand as you normally would when performing a squat with your feet pointing straight and set apart at shoulder width. Then grab your right earlobe with your left hand’s thumb and finger; Repeat the step for your left earlobe and right hand’s fingers. Then lower down in a squat position while breathing in, and breathe out as you stand back up. Continue the movement for a couple of minutes or for as long as you can muster.
According to the Harvard Business School, exercises like this simple but powerful exercise improves memory and thinking skills.
Clear your mind with a set of planks
While giving you a pair of perfectly toned legs, not only do planks give you a full body workout but also help you with mental clarity.
When you are holding a plank or lying down in a plank position, you need to exert all your focus and energy on the move. Although this exercise does require you to use your brain power to execute it perfectly, it also helps relieve all the stress and helps clear the mind. Planks can also work as a great tool for meditation.
It’s important though that you perform this exercise properly to maximize its results. So, start by getting on the floor face down; Use your toes and forearms to rise, keeping your body in a long straight line. Your back should be flat and your abs tucked in. While your legs should be extended out behind you, your head and neck need to be in a neutral position. Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat.
Jump those jacks to kick start your brain
Typically used as a warm-up exercise before starting tough workout regimes, jumping jacks are packed with brain boosting power and ability. They get your blood pumping hard and fast and simultaneously improve its supply to the brain. This, in turn, gives your brain an energy boost which keeps it functioning without wearing out. This kind of activity for just ten minutes can boost brain power.
All you need to perform this exercise effectively is to stand tall with your hands by your side and feet positioned together. Now simultaneously, raise your arms above your head and jump and put your feet to the sides and then bring both arms and feet to starting position. Keep moving back and forth between the jumping and standing position so that your body temperature goes up.
Run for your life
Running may come off as very simple but its benefits and advantages are endless. Research conducted by a team of Australian scientists have concluded and confirmed that running isn’t only great for the heart but is also excellent for the brain and mind.
The research also came up with evidence strong enough to prove that running enhances our cognitive function and helps the brain tremendously. This suggests that an exercise program that includes aerobic exercises along with resistance type training is excellent for your body as well as the brain. So, try running for 30-40 minutes every day and observe great changes in how your brain functions.
Walking never gets old
If all else fails or seems hard to manage, walk. Walking is perhaps one of the most common and effective exercises which
Research has it that adults who take a stroll few times in a week, experience a great boost in their brainpower and it also lowers the risk of illnesses like Alzheimer’s that rob a person of their memory.
According to the results of an exercise program that involved walking, those in the exercise group did better on cognitive tests and had sharper memories than those who didn’t exercise at all.
A few breathing exercises go a long way
Who knew breathing had something to do with your brainpower! Yes, that’s right! Breath-holding exercises, in particular, have shown great promise and progress in stressful situations. These exercises help a person exert good control over things and allows them full command over their mental reserves.
Holding your breath and then releasing it slowly pushes you into a state of flow where your brain activity gets significantly stimulated. The frequency of electrical impulses greatly increases which gives an energy rush to the brain.
All you are required to do to perform these breathing exercises is sit back and relax, inhale, hold it in for a while and then exhale. Repeat this for as long as you can or till your brain feels active and running again.
Yoga cleanses the soul and mind
Widely practiced worldwide for health benefits and relaxation, yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline that involves certain meditation procedures and exercise postures that target specific body parts. In fact, according to research, the practice of yoga helps boost memory and can also improve brain vitality.
Yoga encompasses numerous exercise postures which are targeted towards specific areas but the one with the shoulder stand improves the supply of blood to the brain the most. This boosts the cells of the brain and helps enhance a person’s memory while also providing it with energy. Another pose called the ‘intense forwarding bending’ pose is particularly beneficial for increasing brain power and sharpening the memory. It helps the blood rush to your brain too which also boosts its function.
Hence, incorporating certain yoga poses in your everyday routine can significantly improve the way your brain functions and also relieves mental stress and anxiety.
Tai Chi: take a leaf out of the Chinese’s books
Typically known as a gentle exercise that originated in China, Tai Chi has come to be known as a form of ‘meditation in motion’, which influences brain activity and works as a great stress reliever.
Numerous studies, conducted to study the effect of Tai Chi on the brain, have concluded that it increases the size of the brain and enhances a person’s memory and thinking, also called brain power.
Other studies also show that a regular tai chi exercise regimen improves cognitive abilities in people, especially the elderly, and also enlarges the brain significantly.
Weight training coupled with resistance exercises
Last but not the least, lifting weights combined with vigorous resistance exercises that involve severe contractions show that these can greatly improve memory and reasoning in people, particularly those that have mild cognitive impairment.
A combination of weight and resistance training exercises can increase brain power in people over the age of 50 and evidently, affects an individual’s brain health. Systematic studies that were conducted to assess the influence of weight lifting exercises showed a highly positive impact on brain capacity, alertness, attention, and memory. Resistance training also brings about a distinct effect on executive function and working memory.
While numerous people also resort to taking brain-boosting foods and supplements, for example various super foods,