Sports improve dopamine release in the brain and increase the high oxygen blood flow through the brain. Almost all sports help the brain in different ways. Be it yoga, swimming, or weight lifting, your brain is likely to feel better after it. You do not even have to be good at sports to enjoy the positive effects.
In this guest article Dan Barcelon explains some of the mechanisms behind the athletic focus.
There is no denying that people these days are losing focus.
We’re surrounded by all these cool gadgets, games, etc., and such a flux of outside stimuli makes it easy to lose our concentration.
You’ve probably heard of countless tips and tricks to keep focused, but did you know how you can improve your focus with simple physical activity?
Let’s take a look at five ways exercise can help you develop better attentiveness.
Benefits of Physical Activity
Experts have long agreed that physical activity is beneficial to our overall health and well-being. These benefits reach everyone regardless of your health, sex, or age.
Beyond the obvious physical advantages staying active gives you such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercise can also impact our cognitive health and development.
As we become active, our brain releases dopamine. Not only may this elevate your mood, but it can assist in improving your attention span.
Doctors had previously discovered that antidepressants that raise the chemical levels in the brain might have a positive effect on individuals with ADHD, so it makes sense that naturally raising those levels via physical activity can contribute the same benefits.
Another advantage you can notice from increasing how active you are is getting an energy boost. This may seem counterintuitive at first since so many of us feel tired after strenuous activities. However, regular exercise can improve your strength as well as your endurance.
With better endurance, you’re less likely to become fatigued over both physical and mental tasks, giving you a boost so you can better maintain your focus.
On the other side of the coin, physical activity can also promote better sleep habits. The more restful your sleep is, the more capable you’ll be the next day.
5 Ways to Improve Your Focus through Physical Activities
Now that we understand some of the benefits you can glean, let’s discover exactly what you can do to improve your focus through physical activities. There are numerous paths you can take, but we’ll break down five of our favorite tips that can jumpstart your goals.
- Get in Some Cardio
Cardiovascular exercises such as running are proven to have a great impact on your cognitive health. When you engage in such activities, there’s an uptake in the oxygen-rich blood flow that goes to your brain. In turn, your cognitive function improves.
Running is an excellent route to take in this case. It not only clears your mind, but it encourages you to push past any doubts and focus on finishing the task at hand whether that’s running faster or going longer than usual.
However, we understand that not all of you are able to run. If that’s the case, a brisk walk can do the trick all the same as it still elevates your heart rate and gets your blood pumping.
In fact, there are many ways you can get in a quality aerobic exercise that doesn’t involve running.
You can utilize a bike whether one outdoors or an exercise bike at a gym or in your home. For something that is less cumbersome on the joints, you can opt for the likes of rowing machines or elliptical cross-trainers. These types of exercise machines are perfect for low-impact cardio.
Any type of physical activity that can get your heart going and start that oxygen-rich blood racing to the brain can leave nothing but a positive impact on your cognitive function and improve how well you focus on individual tasks.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mind-body exercises are another great way to improve your focus.
When we think about that mind-body connection, we think about how we can harness our thoughts to positively impact our physical responses. This does wonders at reducing our stress levels and lowering our anxiety.
As such, it’s evident that it can help when it comes to focus as well since you clear your mind and soothe your body to a content state, giving yourself space to truly concentrate without any distractions.
To achieve this, you need to discover those mind-body exercises that best suit your needs.
A popular method of achieving this is through yoga. Focus is detrimental when it comes to yoga whether you are a beginner or have been practicing for years. There are various poses that can stump even expert yogi.
Not only do you have to nail the poses, but you have to hold them for certain lengths of time. All it takes is a few sessions, and before you know it, you will steadily become more aware of your own body. Yoga puts you in a position where you can’t do anything but concentrate on the littlest of movements so that you can achieve the proper pose and maintain it.
Another good way to practice mindfulness is with art like Tai Chi. It keeps you moving so that you get in your physical activity, but just like with yoga, it’s as much about the mind as it is about the body.
There’s plenty of mental concentration needed with Tai Chi, so your brain can get quite the workout. You learn how to carefully, purposely flow from one move to another, forcing your mind to slow down and focus inward.
- Focus on Structured Exercise
As plenty of research proved how physical activity can improve learning, experts also discovered that individuals with ADHD in particular developed a good deal of focus when utilizing structured exercises.
Structured exercises tend to have a better chance at challenging both the mind and body together rather than individually.
To provide some examples, let’s take a look at martial arts like karate, judo, and other similar arts. Unlike Tai Chi, these arts require much more rapid, hands-on movements. Typically, you’ll eventually work with someone else in terms of an instructor and a sparring partner.
So, you not only have to pay attention to yourself, but you’re forced to concentrate on someone else’s movements too. Such activities are ideal for making you consider your fine motor skills, balance, coordination, and more.
Also, martial arts make you remember specific moves rather than just going along with a typical workout program.
Other structured physical activities are things like gymnastics and ballet, or just dancing in general. It may or may not surprise you, but these can offer the same benefits that practicing martial arts can.
Your timing is everything when it comes to these activities, and again, you must remember specific moves or else you may not succeed. Being put in an active situation that pushes your mind is a wonderful way to develop good focus habits.
- Try out High-Intensity Interval Training
If you really want to get into some physical activity, you can’t go wrong with high-intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT.
It’s an excellent way to exercise in the comfort of your home, and it doesn’t even take up much of your time since the key to this type of fitness is focusing on short bursts of activity.
This training does well at improving your body’s oxygen consumption, and at the same time, bettering your endurance. We learned earlier that by cutting down on fatigue, you have a better chance of holding your concentration.
Of course, if you don’t want to tackle the intensity behind HIIT, you can always search for low-impact HIIT routines. These tend to be shorter than your average HIIT routines, and you may even get it done in less than 15 minutes.
This still does well at giving you a good anaerobic exercise that gets your heart rate going and improve endurance.
- Develop a Routine
There are many health benefits that having a routine gives you. A steady routine can lead to lower stress levels and higher energy levels.
You can translate this into your physical activity by ensuring you put specific time aside for a fitness routine. This means that you set a time daily, every other day, or just on a few days out of the week where you have to become active.
Perhaps you plan to get up in the mornings to go on a run, a bike ride, or practice yoga before breakfast.
Maybe you wind down with mind-body exercises instead, opting to do them before bed to relax your mind better so you wake up energized and ready to take on your tasks.
Also, when exercising, be sure you do it for a set length of time to fall into a habit. You may want to get on the treadmill or exercise bike for 20-30 minutes. If so, aim to stick to that as it forces you to focus on time-management.
It’s far too easy for our concentration to slip, but it can be just as easy for you to improve your focus by just becoming more physically active. There are many routes you can take from tackling cardio exercises to practicing mindfulness to form a deep connection between your mind and body.
Regardless of which way you go, it’s always beneficial to increase how active you are in your day-to-day life. It makes you slow down and keep your mind preoccupied just with the task at hand rather than have your thoughts racing from point to point.
Dan Barcelon is the editor-in-chief of the Non-Athlete Fitness blog. Dan’s blog is dedicated to the un-athletically inclined who want simple and easy fitness, nutrition, and health tips. He started the website as a resource for those on a weight loss journey and to build a community of people who prioritize their health.