Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? "Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning," says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. "Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain." If you need a little extra incentive to lace up those sneakers, here are five ways that exercise can boost your brainpower.
Try the shoulder press. Shoulder presses will help you burn calories while toning your shoulder muscles. Pick up a dumbbell weight in each hand and lift them to just above your shoulders with your palm facing each other. With your legs shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent, lift both arms up above your head. Hold them for one second, then lower them back down to above your shoulder over a count of 3. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a wide sumo stance with your feet farther than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out slightly. Drop your weight into your heels and lower your hips until your palms reach the box without rounding your lower back. Jump your feet back into a plank. Reverse the movement and repeat for 30 to 60 seconds. Add height to the box if the movement is too difficult.
Whether we’re fully conscious of it or not, we’re always looking for how to be happy. And exercise is one of the most obvious steps to take, as it’s not a coincidence that you feel better after a good workout: It’s science. A Penn State University study found that people who exercised, whether it was a mild, moderate or vigorous workout, had more pleasant feelings than those who didn’t. (1)