What Makes An Exercise Neurobic

Throughout the course of every day, your brain is activated by your senses, and you encounter new stimuli all the time. Why aren't these Neurobic activities? What is it about the specific things we suggest that make them Neurobic?

To begin with, not everything that's novel provides the kind of nerve cell stimulation necessary to activate new brain circuits and enhance neurotrophin production. For example, if you normally write with a pen and one day choose to write everything in pencil, you've broken your routine and are doing something new. But such a small change wouldn't register as an important new sensory association. It would not be enough to engage the circuitry required to really give your brain a workout.

Contrast this with deciding one day to change the hand you normally write with. Ifyou are right-handed, controlling a pen is normally the responsibility of the cortex on the left side of your brain. When you change to writing left-handed, the large network of connections, circuits, and brain areas involved in writing with your left hand, which are normally rarely used, are now activated on the right side of your brain. Suddenly your brain is confronted with a new task that's engaging, challenging, and potentially frustrating.

So, what are the conditions that make an exercise Neurobic? It should do one or more of the following:

1. Involve one or more of your senses in a novel context.

By blunting the sense you normally use, force yourself to rely on other senses to do an ordinary task. For instance:

Get dressed for work with your eyes closed. Eat a meal with your family in silence.

Or combine two or more senses in

unexpected ways:

Listen to a specific piece of music while smelling a particular aroma.

2. Engage your attention. To stand out from the background of everyday events and make your brain go into alert mode, an activity has to be unusual, fun, surprising, engage your emotions, or have meaning for you.

Turn the pictures on your desktop upside down. Take your child, spouse, or parent to your office for the day.

3. Break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivialway.

(Noveltyjust for its own sake is not highly Neurobic.)

Take a completely new route to work.

Shop at a farmers market instead of a supermarket.

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