A 20-Minute Exercise to Boost Your Brain Power
Just this week on the Buffer blog, Belle Beth Cooper offered a list of ways to put your lunch break to better use backed by science. She offered productivity-boosting suggestions such as snacking on super foods like avocados and blueberries (and dark chocolate… yum!), napping and stepping out into nature to reset.
But maybe she missed one quick and effective way to make your lunch break work harder for you -- take a quick timeout for yoga.
The idea of engaging in a 20-minute yoga session doesn’t come from Eastern gurus or health nuts, but from a recent study out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the idea isn’t aimed at staying slim, flexible or more grounded, but instead at boosting brain function afterwards.
Better Than Going for a Jog
The researchers recruited 30 volunteers for a head-to-head test comparing a quick yoga session with an equal period of moderate aerobic exercise, another frequently recommended brain booster and one also listed by Cooper. Half of the study participants engaged in one kind of activity, half in the other. When the two groups were tested for mental function afterwards, the yogis fared better.
"It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout," lead author Neha Gothe said, according to PsyBlog.
The scientists are still unsure why yoga outperforms standard aerobic exercise, but speculate that the breathing exercises that are part of a yoga practice or the meditative nature of a session might be the key. "Meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests," Gothe noted.
Perhaps these effects are the reason a parade of business luminaries from Salesforce’s Mark Benioff to author Keith Ferrazzi are avowed meditators. Studies also indicate that meditation can help entrepreneurs beat biases and make sounder financial decision. Perhaps you could start accessing those benefits with just a 20-minute yoga session during your lunch break today.
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.