Leaders: Are You Getting Enough Brain Exercise?

  • 2 mins read

As a busy executive, you barely have time to get enough physical exercise into your schedule. And now it’s just as important you keep your brain fit and strong if you want a competitive advantage as a high potential leader.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise five days a week. Not surprisingly, most large companies offer health-club memberships as a perk, and some even provide onsite gyms. Doctors will tell you that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain.
Neurons need not die as we age. In fact, several regions of the brain that control motor behavior and memory can actually expand their complement of neurons as we age. This process, called neurogenesis, used to be unthinkable in mainstream neuroscience.
Here’s how this shows up in real time: Neurogenesis is profoundly affected by your lifestyle. Your experiences and interactions can help strengthen and improve your brain’s neural networks and cognitive abilities.
I see this in the smart leaders I coach. They’re so busy they’ve got their work finely tuned and organized. But it’s often routine and back-to-back with very little “down” time for reflection or exploration of new things. That’s not healthy for the brain, and actually works against brain fitness.
A New Way of Thinking

The brain acts like a muscle: The more activity you do, the larger and more complex it can become.
~ Developmental molecular biologist John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby (Pear Press, 2011)

Brain-imaging studies indicate that acquired expertise in diverse areas – playing the cello or speaking a foreign language to juggling or driving a taxicab – helps expand our neural systems.
In other words, you can physically change your brain by learning new skills. You can even improve brain function by exercising conscious will. In one experiment, chronic-pain sufferers lowered their level of discomfort by employing neurofeedback techniques.
For busy executives, learning to play a musical instrument or doing challenging puzzles may not be practical. But you can incorporate some basic strategies into your existing responsibilities and tasks to improve your cognitive fitness.
In my next post, I’ll suggest six ways to develop your brain while working through your daily tasks.
I’d love to hear from you. What do you do to expand your cognitive fitness?

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