Exercise and the brain

Additional Focus for Workplace Wellness: Exercise and the Brain

For a well-run workplace wellness program, a focus on fitness is key. One additional reason: Exercise and the brain.

We’ve noted the benefits of physical fitness and mental health. For example, we highlighted a report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: A Call to Action Proceedings from the Mental Health in the Workplace: Public Health Summit.” Among other factors, it offers several recommendations for business-led action.

As the study notes: “Mental and behavioral health are important public health issues, affecting between a third and one half of all Americans sometime in their life. Since most of life is spent in working years, the workplace is an ideal setting for public health-informed initiatives that promote mental and behavioral health and prevent illness. For businesses, improvement of employee mental health can save substantial resources by decreasing presenteeism, increasing productivity, and encouraging retention while decreasing health care costs.”

Another report looks at the connection between exercise and happiness — can exercise positively affect one’s mood? It’s titled “A Systematic Review of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Happiness,” and it reviewed some 23 studies that “involved a wide range of population from various countries and areas.”

For the observational studies: All of them “reported positive associations between physical activity and happiness. As little as 10-min physical activity per week or 1 day of doing exercise per week might result in increased levels of happiness.”

Now the New York Times explains “How Exercise Can Help You Recall Words.”

It states: “Call them tip-of-the-tongue moments: those times we can’t quite call up the name or word that we know we know. These frustrating lapses are thought to be caused by a brief disruption in the brain’s ability to access a word’s sounds. We haven’t forgotten the word, and we know its meaning, but its formulation dances teasingly just beyond our grasp. Though these mental glitches are common throughout life, they become more frequent with age. Whether this is an inevitable part of growing older or somehow lifestyle-dependent is unknown. But because evidence already shows that physically fit older people have reduced risks for a variety of cognitive deficits, researchers recently looked into the relationship between aerobic fitness and word recall.”

The post continues: “The young subjects experienced far fewer tip-of-the-tongue failures than the seniors, even though they had smaller vocabularies over all, according to other tests. Within the older group, the inability to identify and say the right words was strongly linked to fitness. The more fit someone was, the less likely he or she was to go through a “what’s that word again?” moment of mental choking.”

More reason for well-run workplace wellness programs to focus on fitness.