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Brainpower on the Move

exercise can boost memory and focus

How ADHD Professionals Can Boost Memory and Focus


Juggling projects, chasing deadlines, and trying to recall vital details—the workday can make your head spin. ADHD can make the professional world feel like an uphill marathon, leaving you drained at the end of the day. The good news? Science says exercise significantly boosts focus and memory. The bad news? Exercise can feel like just one more obstacle for ADHD. What if you could sneak snippets of exercise into your workday?


Science Says Even Short Bursts Matter


Physical activity strengthens your memory by stimulating the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the brain's learning and memory center. In fact, studies show that aerobic exercise can actually increase the size of the hippocampus, improving your ability to think, do, and remember. [1].


Here’s a breakdown of the magic:


  • Increased Blood Flow: Physical activity pumps more oxygen-rich blood to the brain, which promotes cell growth and fuels memory processes.

  • Stress Reduction: Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Chronic stress can hinder memory formation, but exercise disrupts the hindrance [3].


But Science Doesn’t Make Exercising Easy


Understanding the science behind brain health can be a powerful motivator, but it doesn't make the thought of exercise less daunting. But, what if you could sneak exercise into your work day just by making a few tweaks to your routine?


Incorporate Movement Into Your Workflow


Getting physical activity doesn’t require techware, gyms, or designated events. In fact, it can happen anywhere, anytime, even at the office.


Here are some ideas to get your body moving during your workday:


  • Commute Challenge: Walk, bike, or take public transport to work if feasible. Park further away and use the extra steps as a brain power warm-up.

  • Stair Master: Skip the elevator and get your heart pumping with some stair climbing. It's a quick burst of exercise. 

  • Stand On Up: Invest in a standing desk or riser to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

  • Walk-and-Talk Meetings: Ditch the conference room and discuss ideas or quick topics in a walking meeting, which promotes both physical activity and creative thinking.

  • Hydration Breaks: Combine getting a drink with some movement. Take a lap around the office to refill your water bottle.

  • Lunchtime Leap: Use your lunch break for a brisk walk, jog, or gym session. Even 20 minutes can make a difference.

  • Step It Up: Track your steps! Set a daily goal and use a pedometer or fitness tracker to stay motivated.

  • Deskercise: Don't underestimate the power of desk exercises. Try squats, lunges, wall pushes, or stretches between meetings.


Deskercise: Here are five easy exercises you can do right at your workstation.


  • Chair Squats: Stand in front of your chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself down as if you're going to sit, but don't touch the chair. Hold for a second, then push back up to standing. Repeat 10-15 times.

  • Arm Circles: Extend your arms straight out to your sides, palms facing down. Make small circles forward for 10 repetitions, then switch directions and make 10 circles backward. Repeat 2-3 times.

  • Neck Rolls: Gently roll your head in a circular motion, starting with a forward roll (chin to chest) and then a backward roll. Repeat 5 times in each direction.

  • Calf Raises: Sit up straight in your chair and lift your heels off the ground, raising yourself onto your toes. Hold for a second, then lower back down. Repeat 15-20 times.

  • Side Bends: Sit tall in your chair and reach your right arm overhead. Slowly bend to your left side, reaching your left arm towards the floor (but don't arch your back). Hold for a second, then return to the center and repeat on the other side. Do 10 repetitions per side.


Remember, every little bit counts! By incorporating these activities, you can boost your energy, focus, and overall attitude throughout the workday.


Longer Bursts, Bigger Impact


If you want to maximize the benefits of exercise, aim for longer stints that might involve tech-ware. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Moderate aerobic exercise is known to trigger the release of beneficial chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, which further enhance focus, learning, and memory consolidation.


  • Bookend Your Day: Consider a quick jog before work or round off your day with a brisk walk.

  • Find Your Fun: Choose activities you enjoy! Whether it's dancing to your favorite tunes, joining a team sport, or hitting the gym, find something that keeps you motivated.

  • Embrace the Outdoors: Exercising outdoors adds an extra memory boost. Studies suggest that spending time in nature improves cognitive function [5]. So, take your walk in the park or bike ride along a scenic route.

  • Buddy Up: Exercising with a friend or colleague can increase accountability and make it more fun.

  • Mix It Up: Do you get bored with repetition? Keep a list of activities you enjoy and try a new one each day.


Whether short spurts or longer bursts, consistency is key! By incorporating regular exercise into your existing workflow, you can experience improved memory and sharper focus


 

Takeaways:


  • Regular exercise can boost memory function and focus for professionals with ADHD.

  • Even short bursts of activity throughout the day can make a difference.

  • Find activities you enjoy and incorporate them into your daily routine.


Take the 1-Week Memory Boost Challenge: Try incorporating these exercise tips into your workday for a week and see how your focus and memory improve. What exercise did you do today?


 

References:

[1] 2019 study published in Nature Neuroscience, found that regular aerobic exercise promotes neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, in the hippocampus, the brain's memory center. This increase in brain cells can lead to improved memory formation and consolidation

[2] 2014 study in Neuroscience found that these neurotransmitters play a key role in memory encoding, learning, and focus

[3] 2019 meta-analysis in Memory suggests that short bouts of exercise, like a brisk 15-minute walk during your lunch break, can significantly improve memory function

[4] 2018 study in Environmental Science & Technology suggests that spending time in nature can improve cognitive function, including memory

[5] 2018 review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science showed that social interaction during exercise can boost motivation and adherence.

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