By Katarina T. Conrad, PhD
Recent brain studies show that a single workout:
improves our mood by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline
improves focus and attention for at least two hours
increases the volume of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (the two areas most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline in aging).
improves reaction times
has protective effects on your brain
Workout 3-4 times a week for 30 min. And make sure your heart rate is up.
MY RUNNING STORY
I’ve never considered myself a runner. I had not even attempted to so much as jog until I was almost forty. For my big 40th birthday, I decided to run a marathon, never before even running as much as 4 miles. I gave myself 5 months to train from 3 to 26.2 miles. I also picked one of the hardest marathons on the planet - The Great Wall of China marathon with 5,164 steps, which is equivalent to climbing to the top of at least two Empire State Buildings.
I ran in scorching 100F heat, in grueling terrain covered in hills, gravel, and on dirt roads, tall stairs, not to mention being jet-lagged! The longest I had run in those 5 months of preparation was a 16-mile distance. I trained without ever running hills, only alternating my short 21-min HIIT&RUN exercises and jogging 2-4 mile distances. Imagine my thrill when I finished the race and still had energy to spare, while many of the seasoned runners who are used to running on flat terrain and auto-pilot, had trouble finishing the marathon.
After reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, I no longer wore shoes when jogging, and I got rid of all my cushioned shoes and opted for flat shoes such as those available from Merrell.
MY EXERCISE ROUTINE
On average, I walk 6-10K steps a day regardless of what training I am doing. And for six days in a row, I alternate between running and HIIT&RUN. This routine seems to work really well for me. It keeps me strong, fit and healthy. Just ask my family doctor who wanted to know the secret to my perfect lab results. Even the vitamins I was deficient in when I took a similar test in the past are now all well within the normal ranges with my plant-based food and exercise routine. My BMI is steady and normal at 20. My muscle mass percentage is high, above 38%, and my fat percentage is low, under 10%. And my gynecologist said that I have hormones like in a 20-year old. This is why I wanted to share my daily routines, lifestyle and nutritional habits with my HIIT&RUN students.
IDEAS ON HOW TO ADD MORE NATURAL MOVEMENT TO OUR LIVES
Create your own daily routine where you will take more advantage of your surroundings, going beyond your local gym. Any time you have a chance to walk or bike instead of driving, take it. If there is a choice between an elevator or stairs, go for the stairs. If you can organize a walking meeting instead of sitting one, you will all feel more creative, happy and agreeable. If you have a baby, put it in a baby carrier and do your daily cleaning and walking with the baby strapped to you. Walk your dog. If you don’t have one, get one. Studies have shown that people with pets live longer, and kids with pets are more responsible.
Create a daily habit of walking, jogging or running in nature every day for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Nature is important because it has positive effects, not only on our bodies but on our psyche. The sight of nature relaxes us and helps to reduce our tension and stress. Also, walk, jog or exercise with a friend or your accountability partner. Besides keeping you company they will keep you accountable.
Suggested TED Talk on Exercise: The Brain-Changing Effects of Exercise by Wendy Suzuki