A Healthy Lifestyle Can be Good for the Brain 

Work-Life Balance 

It’s the beginning of another new year; are you ready for everything 2012 has to offer?

Better yet, are you ready to take on new challenges in the workplace and in your personal life? With the holidays past us and several months to go until busy season and corporate filings are over, it’s time to get back to work. That means your body must function in order for your brain to go into overdrive.

Huh? What does your body have to do with your brain? Everything! Although crossword puzzles and word jumbles are great for our heads, taking better care of yourself offers many benefits to keep you sharp, focused, and attentive.

Get More Sleep
Whether you toss and turn at night or suffer from insomnia, it’s a fact that we do not get enough sleep—and you need to sleep in order to maximize your brain’s activity.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep-deprivation leads to an:

  • increased risk of motor vehicle accidents;
  • an increase in body mass index, with a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation;
  • increased risk of diabetes and heart problems;
  • increased risk for psychiatric conditions, including depression and substance abuse; and
  • the decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals, or remember new information. 

If you’re one of the millions of people who are mobile or work remotely, the always-on connectivity affects sleep and exercise patterns, according to a survey of 2,300 workers from 1,100 global companies byiPass, a provider of enterprise mobility services. More than 62% of respondents get seven or fewer hours of sleep a night, and 23% get six or fewer hours. More than half said their mobile work habits affected their sleep patterns. Also, 56% of mobile workers exercise rarely or not at all, with 60% of those people blaming work for their lack of exercise.

What is the average number of hours you need each night? This varies from person to person, but experts say 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is the average number. If you find yourself staying up way past the Late, Late Show only to wake up by 6:30 a.m., then it’s time to find a workable solution. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain cannot sustain 8+ hours of workday activity plus after work and evening commitments.

Exercise is a Stress Reliever
Pardon the pun, but this one’s a real no-brainer; relieving stress helps improve brain function. The Mayo Clinic reports there are seven benefits of regular physical activity:

  1. Exercise controls weight.
  2. Exercise combats health conditions and diseases.
  3. Exercise improves mood.
  4. Exercise boosts energy.
  5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
  6. Exercise puts the spark back in your life.
  7. Exercise can be fun.

If you don’t completely buy into number seven, that’s okay! You still have six other great reasons to regularly exercise. If you’re active in some way several times a week, then you’re way ahead of the pack. If you haven’t committed to this, then it’s time.

  • Make exercise convenient. Whatever activity you choose, it has to be readily accessible if you’re going to do it on a regular basis. If your employer is large enough, chances are it has arranged discounted rates at a facility close to your office.
  • Don’t overdo it. You aren’t expected to run a marathon the very first week you get back to the gym, so take it slow and pace yourself.
  • Try a variety of exercise. Most people stop exercise because the routine is a little too routine. The trick is to find a mix of activities and mix those up during any given week. Whether you walk, lift weights, do the elliptical or take a spin class, alter your schedule so that you have enough variety to make regular exercise more interesting.

Eat the Right Things
Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to put away Aunt Fannie’s fruitcake. Crash diets rarely work, but watching your food and drink intake offers great benefits, beginning with your brain. Think about it … if you feel healthier about what you’re eating and drinking, then you’re going to feel better overall—and that includes your brain. No one ever said they got smarter by eating a plate of fried chicken!

You have to make the commitment to do this yourself. If you make a small effort now, it can pay off in much larger ways later on in life. Talk to your peers about what they do, and if you need help, ask for it. Having a friend to go through a diet (and exercise) program makes the entire process much easier.

Start today to get more sleep, exercise, and eat more sensibly. Not only will your body thank you; your brain will respond in more creative ways than ever before.


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