I just finished doing our hallmark “Cognitive Circuit” workout tonight. I did the 6PM session with Coach Doug. I was reminded today why I cut my retirement short to work with a team of overachievers and open a first-of-its-kind brain health training studio in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What we really do at Activate Brain and Body is combine cutting edge technology with the latest research on brain health and exercise science to help our clients build more resilient brains. I got a taste of that workout tonight.
During my workout tonight, the programming called for some dumbbell cleans, some suspension strap pullups, and some variations of kettle bell dead lifts. Intuitively, you wouldn’t think that these are “brain healthy” movements. However, when they are plugged into a program that forces your body to move in new movement patterns, incorporates balance and gets your heart rate up, that’s exactly what they will do.
Like so many other people have reported, I had a bit of the brain fog when I was recovering from Covid several weeks ago. I had let my workouts slide for a while. And, coming back is never easy. My recall and problem solving just didn’t seem as sharp as they normally are. I found myself searching for words that are normally part of my working vocabulary. After three weeks of the Activate coaches pushing me through cognitive workout sessions, I feel as sharp as ever.
One of the things that I think is almost magical about these brain centric workouts is the impact of a tiny little molecule known as BDNF. BDNF, or brain derived neurotropic factor, is sometimes described by neuroscientists as “Miracle Grow for the Brain”. When you introduce BDNF to neurons in a laboratory setting, they become super active and start searching to make connections with other neurons. You can see a 12 second video from Johns Hopkins here showing a neuron lighting up like a Christmas tree after being exposed to BDNF:Brain cell exposed to BDNF.
A fascinating thing about BDNF levels is that they start to increase in our brains when we exercise. The brain based program at Activate puts an emphasis on raising your heart rate, and then challenging the brain. For me today, that was getting my heart rate up with the aforementioned kettle bells, dumbbells and pullups. Then I went to work on the SmartFit board playing a “seek” style game. Without going into all of the details about that game, I had to search the board for a certain character with my heartrate already elevated. I felt like my brain was itching and I wanted to scratch it. It’s a wonderfully awkward sensation that makes me feel like something important is happening.
The reason that I really love this new endeavor is that I know it will help so many people. The research is very clear on one thing when it comes to long term brain health, the best thing that you can do is MOVE YOUR BODY. Now, there are some very specialized ways that we will coach you to move your body and challenge your brain here at Activate, but moving is the first thing that needs to happen. I’m excited about the opportunity to evangelize this new enterprise and share the research with people who desire to keep their brains sharp and their bodies healthy.