©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

Think of physical exercise as a type of brain food. The brain has no muscles of its own so it is dependent on physical exercise of the muscles in the body to enhance blood flow through the brain. Physical exercise gives the brain many of the things it needs to function at full power. It has been demonstrated to decrease the amount of cortisol and hydrocortisone in the brain, related to chronic stress. In excess, hydrocortisone can even shrink brain mass through cell death. No surprise then that those who exercise regularly seem to be more resilient to the exhausting effects of stress on the brain.

The authors of Spark, as well as others, have documented the beneficial effects of physical exercise, which could positively impact brain function and musical activities. For example, physical exercise has been shown to:

  • Improve blood flow
  • Bring the brain into an awake state
  • Strengthen the cardiovascular system
  • Help regulate glucose and insulin
  • Help fight obesity
  • Improve one’s mood
  • Boost motivation
  • Enhance immune-system function
  • Strengthen the bones
  • Foster neuroplasticity
  • Increase levels of L-tryptophan and serotonin

Short breaks with some type of physical movement can be helpful in facilitating brain fitness, as well. Dickmann recommended alternately conducting portions of your work from standing and sitting positions. He also encouraged establishing a stand-as-you-please policy by which individuals sit or stand in meetings or classes based on the needs of their personal mind and body.

According to Jensen standing up and stretching can help combat drowsiness when you are trying to learn. Dickmann advocated standing and stretching every 30-45 minutes at a minimum. Shaking both hands as if you were trying to shake water off them, as your arms hang down at your sides, can also be good for the brain.

Obtain at least thirty minutes of physical exercise daily. Rotate types of exercise to give your body-mind a change. This simple technique can help you maintain a regular exercise program.