Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

How can a brain rule makes me walk every day

All our thoughts, ideas, memories depend of this organ we call brain. Then, it is reasonable to think we need to exercise the brain as much as we need to exercise our body if we want to keep our mental fitness. But if you think training the brain means thinking all the time – which we do – but in a sedentary mode, think again. In a few paragraphs a recently read, my perspective changed and my routines.


In John Medina‘s book “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School” Rule #1 is

Exercise boosts brain power.

He says,

The human brain evolved under conditions of almost constant motion. From this, one might predict that the optimal environment for processing information would include motion. That is exactly what one finds. Indeed, the best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles [~3km] per hour.

Researchers studied two elderly populations that had led different lifestyles, one sedentary and one active. Cognitive scores were profoundly influenced. Exercise positively affected executive function, spatial tasks, reaction times and quantitative skills.

Exercise improves cognition for two reasons:

  1. Exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which reduces brain-bound free radicals. One of the most interesting findings of the past few decades is that an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness.
  2. Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.

So, it comes down to this simple thought. If all I need to do is move, walk, because my brain will take advantage from this cognitive candy, then… why not? For a week, I’ve been walking every day for at least 30 minutes. And, honestly, I’m feeling great and addicted to it in the good sense.

I used to say I don’t have time to exercise, but I found out all I needed was a reason and this is the bottom line. Changing your lifestyle to boost your productivity implies having a reason. Mine was to keep my brain fit and improve my health. But this is not enough.

I think there’s also a mind fitness, distinct from a brain fitness. And keeping you mind fit means exercising it through meditation and reading. You can achieve this with a simple meditation book for as much as 10 minutes a day or less. Usually these meditations are more spiritual and reflective, leading you to think about your life and the world around you.

The important part in all this is to keep a balance between brain and mind fitness. These are two realities with a strong link that needs nurturing and training. If your brain is healthy and your mind is sane, a greater success in your professional, personal and spiritual life will follow.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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