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Exercise Your Brain Power This Brain Awareness Week

This week marks Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) wants to remind Australians of the importance of getting up and being more active for the sake of your brain.

“As one of the most important parts of the human body, we need to ensure we are keeping our brains healthy. Physical activity is proven to be one of the most significant contributors to positive brain health,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

Despite the benefits, statistics show that over 60% of Australian adults carry out less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day and only one in five children undertake the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity during the day.

“Australians just aren’t exercising enough. Exercise can help to reduce the risk of and alleviate symptoms of a range of chronic conditions. Lack of exercise is one of the main causes of chronic conditions,” says Ms Hobson-Powell.

Exercising the brain with physical activity primarily prevents, or delays, chronic diseases in children and adults. A 2014 UK study estimated that physical inactivity accounted for 21.8 percent of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Another study even went as far as to say that just one hour of exercise a week can reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s disease by almost half.

Another benefit of being active for those living with a chronic condition is the positive effects on one’s mental health.

“Aerobic exercise has been shown to be effective in treating major depression. Studies show that about 60% of people halve their depression score by exercising and more than 40% stay that way for at least three months,” says Carly Ryan, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and ESSA Spokesperson.

Regular exercise has also been proven to improve memory and thinking skills. Exercising increases blood flow which pumps more oxygen to the brain.

“You don’t even have to go too hard, 20 minutes has been proven to facilitate memory function and processing of information,” says Carly.

Tips for Exercising Right for Your Uniqueness

  1. Talk to the right person: One of the most important parts is to voice your concerns to an accredited exercise professional.

                                 i.            If you have any immediate health concerns it is best to speak to your local GP.

                               ii.            If you have lived with a chronic condition or have had major surgery or injuries it’s best to speak to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

                              iii.            If you have no apparent health concerns, then chat to an Accredited Exercise Scientist who is university trained to help put together the most appropriate exercise program for you to improve your health.

If you do have any concerns about your health, contact your local accredited exercise professional.

  1. Set your goals: Before you begin anything it’s time to work out WHY you want to start exercising more. Goal setting is so important when it comes to exercising, it gives you an aim to work towards and should also give you a time in which to achieve them
  2. Make a plan: Now it’s time to put together an overall plan. This plan doesn’t have to be full of details, it just needs to be a list of activities and when you are going to achieve them. Perhaps grab a calendar and mark out your activities for the next month, or even pop them in to your phone!
  3. Listen to your body: We all hear the terms “no pain, no gain” but it’s simply not true. Effective exercise can be taking your body out of its comfort zone and including a little ‘huff and puff’ but it should never be so painful it either puts you off or causes your body to break down.
  4. Celebrate your achievements: It’s amazing what a little encouragement can do. Take the time to congratulate yourself on what you have achieved, no matter how big or small.

Every March, Brain Awareness Week unites the efforts of partner organisations worldwide in a celebration of the brain for people of all ages. To get involved, visit the Australian institute, Brain Foundation, here.