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Updated: Apr 30

The following segment is part 02 of the article series on how exercise can help boost your powers of concentration and take your workplace performance to the next level.

Part 02 of 02

So, How Does Exercise Change Your Brain to Improve Concentration?

Exercise helps drive mental focus and enhance levels of concentration through both direct and indirect means.

Direct Benefits – Helping You Focus

Getting your heart rate up leads directly and immediately to improved cognitive function and staying on task. This is due to a positive increase in blood pressure and blood flow to the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, and this makes our brain perform better. Especially in certain parts such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain known to help in resisting distractions and improving attention.

Exercising moderately and regularly stimulates the release chemical growth factors in the brain. The release of these growth factors stimulates the formation of new brain cells, continued health of existing brain cells and growth of brain blood vessels, helping improve brain function and boosting mental performance.

More specifically exercise increases BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), in parts of the brain regions involved in executive control and concentration. This leads directly to brain cells binding to one another. As such, synapses, or connections between cells become denser and more intimate ­– we think and focus better because our capacity to make connections is improved.

Regular exercise is also shown to reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, shown to be strong causes of brain fog, reduced memory, and concentration.

Indirect Benefits ­– Improving Wellbeing

In addition to its direct effects on mental performance, physical activity also aids concentration by improving general health. Feeling tired, uncomfortable, and irritable can take a toll on cognitive health and ability to concentrate. Developing a regular exercise routine helps increase fitness, improve sleep, lowers stress and improves mood. This boosts mental health and combats conditions, such as anxiety, fatigue and depression, which make concentrating at work difficult.

The Quickest Way to Build Your Brain:

If you’re looking for immediate improvements in mental acuity and concentration so you can perform better here’s how it’s done:

  • a minimum of 20 minutes moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise (heart rate at 70–80% of maximum), interspersed with your work hours… such as in the morning before you begin or in your lunch break, seem to work best.

If longer term performance benefits are more what you’re after:

  • develop a regular pattern of 30–60 minutes resistance training along with 20–30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as running, cycling or elliptical trainer, three to five days a week, before or after work, or during your lunch break will work wonders!

There it is – regular, well-structured exercise… it doesn’t just get you in shape, it will help build your brain, develop your superpowers of concentration, and ensure you perform better in all aspects of life.

At Club Forma, our personal trainers design personalised exercise programs that maximize on performance enhancing techniques and minimize on time – helping our clients perform better at work and ensuring they stay on top of their busy lives.

If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you, book a free consultation with one of our expert trainers.


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Updated: Apr 28

In this 2–part article, we will investigate how a little exercise can help boost your powers of concentration and take your workplace performance to the next level.

Part 01 of 02

A wave of new studies exploring the unexpected links between brainpower and bodily fitness have been emerging from universities. Results from these studies are showing how regular exercise is a key ingredient for building the brain and improving all aspects of cognition, especially mental focus, and ability to concentrate.

This information is helping people who want to perform at a high level prepare physically for mental challenges such as creative projects, interviews, long days in the office and life in general.

It also illustrates why regular exercise really is essential if you want to perform better, not just physically, but in all aspects of life…

The Facts

Exercise can help you focus and stay on task.

Results of a Leeds Metropolitan University study, which examined the influence of daytime exercise among office workers with access to a company gym, suggested that exercise during regular work hours boosts mental performance. Researchers found on days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time better, being more productive, and being able to stay on task more effectively.

A study conducted by VU University Medical Centre in the Netherlands showed that interspersing lessons with 20-minute bouts of aerobics-style exercise improved the attention spans of school pupils.

Meanwhile, a large randomised controlled trial in the US looked at the effects of daily after-school sports classes on children over a school year. Results of the study showed improvements in the children’s executive control, they became more adept at ignoring distractions, multitasking, and holding and manipulating information in their minds.

Elsewhere, studies have shown that the parts of the brain that control thinking, memory and concentration (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of these selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

This cognitive spill–over from exercise is showing us that our brains do not operate in isolation. What you do with your body influences greatly on your all your mental faculties ­– especially focus and concentration.

In part 02 of this article, we will look at exactly what exercise does to modify your brain and the fastest way to boost your own levels of concentration...

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  • Writer's pictureHayden Thin

Updated: Mar 4

How Training your Body Helps You Defeat Mental Stress and Improves Your Performance.

Most people will agree that they experience some level of stress as a part of their daily lives, especially when in high demand executive jobs, and though it may not be possible to escape all of the sources of stress from day-to-day activities, thankfully there is a highly effective, natural stress management technique that has a variety of both mental and physical benefits – exercise!

Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles are tense, you may feel chest tightness, a pounding pulse or headaches, or you may experience problems such as insomnia or an inability to stay focussed at work. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress and a decline in performance, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle and since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so too, will your mind. So how exactly does exercise defeat stress and what are the benefits?

Fixing The Damage

Exercise addresses the long-term negative effects of stress on the brain by reversing the damage created by chronic stress. Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, Ph.D., a kinesiologist at the Yale Stress Center, says that elevating one’s heart rate can actually reverse physical damage to the brain caused by stressful events: “Stress atrophies the brain — especially the hippocampus, which is responsible for a lot of functions – memory in particular. When you’re stressed, you forget things.” Exercise, by contrast, promotes production of neurotransmitters and endorphins such as serotonin, dopamine and brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which are associated with elevated mood, learning and memory and can improve thinking dulled by stressful events. “By promoting these important neurochemicals, exercise can help sharpen thinking”, he adds.

Immediate Happiness

Endorphins released during exercise also provide a more immediate positive effect on stress and mood. They act as natural painkillers giving your body an overall sense of relaxed happiness and a general good feeling, this in turn elevates mood and reduces levels of anxiety. Studies have shown a 20-30 minute period of high-intensity exercise, such as a rigorous jog or resistance training, is enough to help drive a release of these naturally occurring hormones and they usually peak about one hour after you’ve finished exercising. If you add exercising with a partner to the mix, your body also releases oxytocin another feel good hormone that neutralizes the physical effects of stress and makes you feel good.

Train the Body, De­-Stress the Mind

Studies show rhythmic exercises helps calm your mind by focussing your thoughts, freeing your mind and helping you to process stressful events from the day. On a common psychiatric metric called PALMS, people who have just finished a workout rate higher for mood, memory and energy — and lower for tension, anxiety and depression. The Rhythmic, repetitiveness of exercise also releases tensions in muscles helping you burn off negative emotions that can lead to frustration. Harvard Health Publications state, “many people find that using large muscle groups in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion works best; we call it "muscular meditation." Running on a treadmill, elliptical machine or even fast walking work well.

Exercise also helps the body to properly utilize and absorb the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are released throughout your body when you experience stress and if not utilized properly they can produce those feelings of muscle tension, chest tightness, elevated pulse and irritability – this may eventually even put you at risk of stress related illnesses.

Engaging in regular exercise helps improve sleeping habits and sleep quality. Difficulty sleeping at night can lead to a lack of energy and a heightened sense of anxiety. Exercise can help change this negative pattern of behaviour, making you feel more in control of your life and less stressed.

The Physical Stuff

Even a simple 20-minute stroll can clear the mind and reduce stress, but a balance of regular higher intensity resistance training and cardiovascular exercise is best for performance. Scientific data suggests that frequency is most important so, if you are super busy, aim for shorter regular workouts rather than longer less frequent ones.

At Club Forma, our personal trainers typically recommend:

• Resistance training: 3 to 4 sessions each week, lasting 30­-40 minutes. Each session should include a balanced variety of free weight exercises and include large movements, such as deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses and leg press performed in a steady rhythmic cadence.

• Cardiovascular exercise: 3 to 5 times per week, lasting at least 20 minutes. Select repetitive flowing exercises for muscular meditation – elliptical training, brisk inclined walking, running and rowing are especially good.

• For an extra warm fuzzy feeling partner up with an exercise buddy, or join a sports team.

• At the Club Forma personal training studio in Richmond, we have a carefully selected playlist of music to get you energised, but if our style of music is not your jam, download your own music onto your portable media player to help get you into the cardio groove.

If you’re wanting to learn more about how to manage stress from work or your busy lifestyle, book a free consultation with one of our expert personal trainers and learn we can help you perform better at life every day.


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