New books on better workouts that include the brain as well as the body

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Need help pushing yourself to run? Drink some Gatorade and spit it out in the sink.

It’s a taste of the unconventional advice in this year’s new fitness books, which focus on the brain’s role in exercise and how movement can improve cognitive function and health. mental. Several books explore not only how movement affects the brain, but also how the brain affects movement, offering insights into mindfulness during workouts or tips for bypassing brain barriers to exercise. (Gatorade’s swish, one book theorizes, misleads the brain into believing that the system is receiving an energy blast from a sugary drink, even though it isn’t.)

“We forget that the body is attached to the brain,” says Caroline Williams, author of “Move: How the New Science of Body Movement Can Free Your Mind. “” We can use our body as a tool to change the way we think and feel, as a direct line to the mind. “


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In her new book “52 Ways to Walk: The Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time,” Annabel Streets tackles the boredom that might creep into a well-worn fitness routine. Original tips for keeping things interesting include stepping back a bit or inverting your head to see the world upside down. To protect brain health, she cites a study calling for four minutes of brisk walking, then three minutes of easy walking throughout a longer walk. Ms. Streets adds by galloping, dancing or jumping to keep it cool.

His thesis: Movement is medicine. “A 12-minute walk changes 522 metabolites in our blood, molecules that affect the beat of our heart, the breathing of our lungs, the neurons of our brain,” she writes in the book due out next month. “Oxygen rushes through us, affecting … our memory, our creativity, our mood, our ability to think.”


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Many of these books were already in the works as a mental health crisis emerged alongside the pandemic. As these writers worked, they looked for ways for the body to fight anxiety and depression. The authors believe there is an enthusiastic audience for the post, noting that Covid-19 has prompted millions of people to rethink their routines, including their exercise habits.

“I want people to dust off their connection to their bodies so that they can hear what their body wants and needs,” explains psychiatrist Dr. Ellen Vora. In her new book “The Anatomy of Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming the Body’s Fear Response”, published in March, she argues that physical activity is ignored by experts too focused on mental health. “It’s the fruit at hand,” she said. “Brain chemistry, thoughts and behaviors can take years to process on the couch. “


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Jennifer Heisz examines the neuroscience of exercise in “Move the Body, Heal the Mind: Overcome Anxiety, Depression, and Dementia and Improve Focus, Creativity, and Sleep,” scheduled for release March 8. She suggests ways to redirect the mind when it resists movement. Tip: Play music before a workout, which she says floods the brain with dopamine, the feel-good hormone that can make movement less painful.

Dr Heisz served as a guinea pig, going from a sedentary scholar to a triathlete, a transformation featured in the book (which ends with performing a solo Ironman when the event was canceled due to the pandemic) .

“We can use our body as a tool to change the way we think and feel, as a direct line to the mind”


– Caroline Williams, author of “Move: How the New Science of Body Movement Can Free Your Mind”

One of his most intriguing tricks is to make a sugary drink swish in his mouth without swallowing it – even maple syrup would work, suggests the Canadian researcher, but not a sugar substitute. The act triggers the brain, which naturally wants to preserve energy for survival, releasing dopamine to help jumpstart exercise based on the false promise of sugar, she explains.

Nita Sweeney says in her book that exercise can be turned into a powerful meditative practice.


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“The brain is always working against you so as not to expend energy, but we can ignore it,” says Dr. Heisz, who studies the effects of exercise on brain health as director of the NeuroFit Lab. ‘McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

In her new book “Make Every Move a Meditation: Mindful Movement for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Insight,” published in August, Nita Sweeney argues that pickleball or a Zumba class can be turned into a powerful meditative practice whose benefits spill over into other areas of life. Focusing the mind on a single thought, object, or sensation during exercise can help bring clarity and peace of mind, she says.


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“To run I often use my left foot,” she says. “I don’t know why, but the feeling of my left foot hitting the ground is noticeable to me.” She encourages people to use “a little bit of willpower” to keep focusing on one object when they exercise and to get their minds drifting.

Dr Robin Berzin, a functional medicine physician, fills his prescription pad with instructions for patients to exercise. In “State Change: End Anxiety, Beat Burnout, and Ignite a New Baseline of Energy and Flow,” which will be released next week, she features a starter kit for readers using the movement for mental health, a six-weekly regimen. days of cardio, weight training and more meditative practices like yoga and tai chi.

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How are you adjusting your exercise routine for 2022? Join the conversation below.

The author, founder of the national holistic medical practice Parsley Health, describes the reasons why exercise is mandatory for those seeking mood stability and improved mental health. She offers all kinds of research-based motivations, as well as the kind of hard love that needs no explanation.

“Do it,” she writes, “now”.

Write to Ellen Gamerman at [email protected]

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