MAP It Out

Exercise


Nope, not that kind of map.

This kind of MAP is a new method of improving your brain health by combining both mental and physical training.

Both mental and physical exercise can help your brain develop new neurons, and keep these newly generated neurons alive. Combining the two types of exercise is called MAP training: mental and physical training.

One study of people who had been diagnosed with depression looked at what happened when individuals participated in MAP for 8 weeks. For the mental training component, participants performed a 20-minute seated meditation focusing on the breath, followed by a 10-minute walking meditation where they focused on transitioning from one foot to the other. Then, they began the physical training component with a 5-minute warm-up before 30 minutes of cardio exercise on either a treadmill or stationary bike. The session was wrapped with a 5-minute cool-down.

The results were pretty impressive. After only 8 weeks of training, there was a nearly 40% reduction of depression.

Why is this important? Depression is a risk factor for cognitive decline. So is stress and lack of physical activity.

How can you implement this program at home? It will take about an hour a day. First, sit in a cross-legged or other comfortable position (where you’re unlikely to fall asleep) for 20 minutes, focusing on inhales and exhales of your breath. Then, spend 10 minutes walking outside, or around your office, house or apartment building, paying careful attention to your steps and how they feel. Next, warm up with 5 minutes of dynamic stretching (stretching with movement) to warm up all your joints before hitting a treadmill for 30 minutes. Don’t have a treadmill? Any activity that gets your heart going so fast you have difficulty carrying on a conversation may do the trick. Make sure to cool down with 5 minutes of slow walking and stretching when you’re all done.

References

  • Alderman, B. L., Olson, R. L., Brush, C. J., & Shors, T. J. (2016). MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry, 6, e726. doi: 10.1038/tp.2015.225