The most transformative thing you can do for your brain today
If you have been following along here for a bit, you've heard me talk about attention. USOPC Sport Psychologist refers to attention as the currency of performance. We’ve also looked at the work of Dr. Amishi Jha, who took it even further, as she believes that attention fuels performance and well-being, because attention is required for thinking, feeling and connection.
My goal with this newsletter is to share information and best practice to help you enhance well-being and performance - attention sits at the intersection of them. Coaches are constantly wearing different hats and juggling tasks. In the span of a couple of hours a coach can be breaking down film, running workouts, monitoring academic progress, fundraising and hundreds of other tasks. The ability to sustain your focus and switch your focus is the name of the game.
Today, I want to lean into maximizing the off-season, as most of you reading are NCAA coaches. It's difficult to build new practices and habits during a season as it can be all consuming, so the off-season is a great time to build on your foundational blocks of well-being and high performance. Often as performers, we are on the lookout for our edge, that 1% difference that can lead to winning, and because of that, we can lose sight of the other 99%.
So, in this week's 3 Point's, we'll take a look at research conducted by NYU Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki, and what she calls the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today: Exercise.
1. According to Dr. Suzuki, exercise is essential for optimal cognitive performance (aka what you do for a living). Her lab found that a single workout had significant short term effects that included:
Improved reaction times
Improved ability to shift and focus attention (the currency of performance) that last at least 2 hours following workout.
All from a single workout - talk about bang for your buck.
2. Great - now what happens after those 2 hours? Well, her research also found that consistent exercise has significant long-term effects as well. Exercise improves your long-term memory. Additionally, according to Suzuki, you not only get immediate effects of mood with exercise but those last for a long time. So you get long-lasting increases in those good mood neurotransmitters. Lastly, the most common finding in neuroscience studies, looking at effects of long-term exercise, is improved focus and attention.
3. Good news: You don’t have to become an Ironman to reap the cognitive performance benefits of exercise. According to Dr. Suzuki, the rule of thumb is you want exercise three to four times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes , and you want to get aerobic exercise in. That is, get your heart rate up.
Perhaps this off-season you can build consistent exercise into your schedule. Since learning about this research, I have tried to complete my exercise before I do work that requires the most focus. Give it a try!
Resources to learn more: