What’s your excuse? We all have them: the reasons we give for not physically exercising our body. My most frequent excuse is “I don’t have enough time” which is a myth. Everyone has the same amount of time; it’s about how we choose to use our time. Physical exercise is not only how we keep our body strong. It’s a key component in having a healthy mind and memory. Our next treat in our month long series on memory wellness is exercising our bodies.
More research has been done on physical exercise and its connection to memory than any other topic. The impact is undeniable. When we exercise our body, we help our brain by providing additional blood flow. This blood flow then fuels the very brain cells we want to keep engaged for a healthy mind and memory. But understanding this is one thing and doing it is another. Enter those pesky excuses.
Recent research has focused on how we can make exercise a habit we will not excuse. We will WANT to exercise not only for our bodies but our brains as well. But each of us does this differently. The research study took a look at the intrinsic rewards associated with exercising to see if it would help us keep the habit longer.
To create a habit, we need a cue beginning a routine which ultimately leads to the reward. Often the reward can change over time. If we initially start exercising to lose weight or get our blood pressure down (the reward), once that goal is met, we may find ourselves making excuses to not continue. But if the reward is intrinsic, researchers have shown we will stick with the habit of exercise over a longer period of time.
The key element here is the intrinsic or internal driving reward we receive from the exercise. This intrinsic reward will be different for each of us. It’s up to each of us to find what that force will be. Is it the enjoyment or feel-good endorphins received after a good workout? Is it seeing friends at exercise class? Is it the long lasting maintenance of a healthy weight and blood pressure? Or is it the benefit of being able to think more clearly?
Whatever your intrinsic reward may be, initiate the work to find it. Start an exercise routine to benefit your mind and body. Find your motivation along the way, but just start.* Begin slowly, work with a professional to help if needed, but get moving. Keep that blood flow going to our brains and gain control of our bodies and minds with exercise.
Let’s not allow excuses to rob us of the benefits of a healthy body and brain. Get up, get moving and create a new habit with an intrinsic reward unique to each of us. Let’s keep our attention on our reward: a well mind and body, rather than an excuse.
*Always check with your doctor or health provider before beginning any new exercise programs.