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Window to your brain health

May is mental health awareness month. It is critical for all of us to become aware of the impact it can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, families, and communities.

Being active is not as hard as you think.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted our routines. As our life shifted to working-from-home and social distancing, our day-to-day behavior changed. As we protect ourselves against the risks of COVID-19, we are spending more time sitting and less time being physically active.

Research has linked sitting for long periods with many health concerns including obesity and several other conditions such as increased blood pressure, blood clots, and diabetes. Inactivity for extended periods isn’t just detrimental to our physical health, but a neurological risk as well.

Sitting too much quite literally shrinks the brain. It reduces brain blood flow which may negatively affect our ability to think. On the other hand, movement boosts our capacity for learning, memory, and problem-solving, while enhancing focus and attention.

Physical activity increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a trophic factor associated with cognitive improvement and the alleviation of depression and anxiety. As BDNF floods the brain, it fundamentally changes the structure and function of brain tissue, making it easier to learn, consolidate information and skills, and stay active both physically and mentally.

Being active is not as hard as you think. There are lots of simple ways to include some physical activity in your day.

For example:

  • Take a break from sitting every 60 minutes.

  • Move in the way you enjoy. Try Yoga, walking while talking on the phone, playing outside with your kids or pets.

  • If you work at a desk, try standing up for a few minutes every 30 minutes.

  • Do some wall sits.

  • Drink more water as it would prompt you to take frequent restroom breaks.

  • If you have stairs, climb up and down for 2 minutes at a time.

The impact of movement — even leisurely movement — can be profound. For starters, you'll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss, increased energy as well as better brain health. Get up! Keep your body moving to grow your brain and enhance your mental well-being, especially as you age. I would love to know what are you doing to stay active!

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