Cardiovascular (more commonly known as cardio) exercises have lots of benefits for the brain. BrainHQ reports that in general, an exercise that is good for your heart will also be good for your brain. Cardio exercises get blood flowing and pumping through your whole body, including your brain. A study from the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia found that cardio workouts from 20 to 60 minutes helps with processing information and memory.
Many workouts can challenge your brain, too. Competitive sports force your brain to strategize your next move against your opponent. If you’re not the competitive type, rock climbing is a great puzzle for your mind: you have to plan the next hold to grab and figure out a route up the wall. These strategic sports are great for improving concentration, focus, and awareness, since you’ll have to keep your head in the game (or on the wall.) You can also challenge your brain by constantly learning something new. Taking a boot camp class or working with a trainer where the instructor constantly changes moves and drills will keep you and your brain on your toes.
Memorizing routines is another way to exercise your mind. Ballroom dancing has become more popular with TV shows like Dancing with the Stars – these shows have also illustrated what an intense workout dancing can be. With the cardio workout from performing the moves and the brain workout from memorizing the routine, you’ll exercise your body and mind. Certain styles of yoga also include memorizing a series of poses, with emphasis on the smooth, fluid movements between them.
Your brain can’t work its best if you’re stressed out. Many people turn to exercise to beat stress, as it releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones that will make you feel happy and relaxed.) Not only will yoga release endorphins, but it will also get you breathing properly. Focusing on your breathing and timing each breath will relax you, reducing stress. Many yoga classes include some meditation as part of the cool-down, which can help to clear your mind of anything that is stressing you.
No matter which form of exercise you choose, you’ll need to stay hydrated. The University of Georgia study found that those who exercised for over an hour lost the brain benefits they’d earned because they became dehydrated. So get some exercise, but also get lots of water, to give your brain everything it needs to perform in its peak condition.