Your brain is perhaps the most fascinating thing in the universe! Its ability to do good, innovate and create is the most amazing thing any creation of Allah can do! Nevertheless, the brain is also the most neglected and the least taken care of organ in our body. My sincere hope is that this article will transform the way you take care of that precious organ!
Your brain is the gateway to your intellect. And the intellect is one of the greatest blessings Allah subuhanawuta’la has bestowed upon us. He has honoured the man and favoured him over other creatures through this intellect.
In fact, one of the objectives of Islamic Sharia is to protect the intellect at any cost. It is for this reason that Allah subuhanawuta’la has forbidden all types of intoxicants and drugs, which He describes as an abomination of Satan’s handiwork: “O you who believe, intoxicants, gambling, stone altars and divining arrows are abominations devised by Satan. Avoid them so that you may be successful.” (Sura Al-Maa’idah, 5:90)
While it’s obligatory to protect our intellect from all these forbidden things, it’s also highly commendable in Islam to work on practical things to develop our intellect. And one way of doing that is obviously protecting our brain from damages and improving its efficiency in every possible way.
For this reason, I’ve talked about brain health extensively in some of my previous articles too. In those articles, I’ve argued how nutrition, sleep, exercise, prayer etc. play an important role in building a smarter and healthier brain.
My goal today is to show you how you can become smarter, think better and achieve a healthy brain even at an old age by immediately following these two simple hacks:
- Move more
- Eat less
What do I mean by movement?
Movement is moving your whole body or a part of your body to avoid being sedentary. So, a movement can be anything like walking, running, exercising, dancing, jumping, hanging, standing, cleaning your house, washing your dishes, playing with your children, stretching, tapping your legs, waving your hands, etc. etc. etc.
In short, a movement is anything but sitting, standing or lying down.
By this definition, even cooking becomes a movement. Cleaning? Yes of course! Likewise, walking running, doing yoga, working out all becomes a movement.
Though not all movements are equal, even those small movements add up throughout the day and benefit our health immensely.
The difference between exercise and movement
Now, this may lead you to ask the question, what then the real difference is between movement and exercise.
Well, unlike movement, exercise is something that you do on a particular day in a particular place in a particular way. Going to the gym? Yes, you are exercising! Jogging? Yes, of course.
So most of us focus on how much we exercise. That’s actually great, but just exercise alone isn’t enough for optimum health.
How excessive sitting cancels the benefits of exercise
In a highly researched book, Are You Fully Charged, the Author Tom Rath references a 2014 study by the National Institute of Health of America. The study estimates that every two hours of sitting cancels out the benefits of 20 minutes of exercise. When researchers from the National Institutes of Health followed more than 200,000 people for a decade, they found that even seven hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week was not enough to protect against the hazards of excessive sitting. Even the most active group they studied — people who exercised more than seven hours every week — had a 50 per cent greater risk of death and doubled their odds of dying from heart disease if they were also in the group that sat the most throughout the day.
And there are reams of such studies that do confirm this: Excessive sitting cannot be counteracted by few minutes of exercise a day.
What’s the solution then? The solution is to start moving more! Finding new ways to replace your sedentary habits with more movement.
Remember, regular exercise is and should be part of your overall movement, but movement should occupy a lion share in your daily life!
A simple hack to move more
In some of my previous articles, I’ve provided quite a lot of practical ways to move more. Check them out:
All of the practical ways I’ve mentioned in these articles are incredibly easy and simple to do. However, the one I’m going to mention now is perhaps the easiest and doable for most folks.
If you are someone who sits all day long (ok, I agree that’s how most humans work 🙂 ), try taking a tiny break and walk for just two minutes! That’s it. Yep, walk just two minutes every hour! Isn’t that easy?
I know you are sceptical, aren’t you? But, latest research verifies my claim and shows that as little as two minutes of movement every hour can help improve your health. The underlying message from this research is that all physical activity counts. The little things you do every day, such as climbing a flight of stairs or walking every two minutes an hour can add up and affect your health positively.
Just two minutes of walking every hour won’t make you slim, but it certainly can counteract some of the negativity of prolonged sitting.
Good-bye to exercise?
Now does it mean, you can say good-bye to your regular exercise and just do the two minutes walk every hour? Obviously not, exercise is incredibly important for our health, sleep and most importantly for our brain.
But exercise alone isn’t enough if you want to move the needle towards optimum health, including your brain health.
While working out at least 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week is essential for a healthy body, focusing on frequent movement throughout the day is more important for your overall health, brain health and disease prevention.
As you know, health isn’t just synonymous for being lean. It’s not about how you look in the mirror. It’s more about living a disease free life, having more energy in life to do things that are meaningful and important, being more productive and most importantly having a brain that can think straight, contemplate about the creations of Allah and focus well.
I would even argue, your brain health is the be-all and end-all of your health. What else is the benefit of your “health”, if you can’t even think straight, contemplate or focus well?
If you want to learn how to eat, move and sleep for an abundant life – i.e. if you are interested in taking a holistic approach to transforming your health – here’s how to get started
Your brain health is essential for everyday life such as making decisions, focusing, learning, memorising etc. Now, let’s see how movement and exercise help your brain to master your days effectively.
How Movement Keeps Your Brain healthy
To understand how movement keeps your brain healthy, you first need to understand what a hippocampus is. (Nope, it’s not the Hippo that lives in sub-Saharan Africa 🙂 )
Hippocampus is a small organ located within the brain. One of its main functions has to do with memory and spatial navigation.
In other words, to learn anything new, to remember the things you learned or even just to find your hotel in a new city, you need hippocampus’ help. The hippocampus’ true role is much more than I can mention in this short article. Its importance is so great, some scientists call the hippocampus as the “heart of the brain.”
If you are interested to know how important hippocampus role is in your daily life, then watch this short video:
So part of keeping your brain healthy is keeping your hippocampus healthy. But here is the problem: your hippocampus starts to shrink year by year starting by the age of 20. Already at 40 years, 20 per cent of the hippocampus will have dwindled.
And that shrinking decreases hippocampus ability to function well. You can notice this mostly in people above 50 years old that they have some difficulty to learn a new thing, such as using a computer or smartphone.
Are you doomed after 50?
Now does it mean that we are all doomed after 50? Nope, not at all. There is one magic pill that can slow down the shrinking and keep your brain young and healthy for quite a long time. That is exercise, particularly, aerobic exercise.
Did you say wow? I did that when I first came across all these research materials! It’s fascinating to know that you can become smarter, think better and achieve a healthy brain by just moving more daily.
So go, move yourself to keep your brain smart and healthy!
I’ll meet you in the second part of this article with much more “wow” things.
Until then, I wish you “movement full” of days.