The unique exercise this neuroscientist does for optimal brain health: ‘Physical activity is so powerful for our brain’

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To keep your brain health in good shape, you should engage in physical activity as often as you can. 

“Physical activity is so powerful for our brain,” Dr. Wendy Suzuki, neuroscientist and dean of NYU College of Arts and Science, said in an episode of a recent MasterClass series that features neuroscientists and psychiatrists sharing advice for optimal brain health.

Suzuki mentioned how walking 10 minutes a day can do wonders for your mood and that strategic sports like soccer and basketball engage your prefrontal cortex more than other exercises. But the workout in Suzuki’s weekly routine is much different than most others.

“I got pulled back into exercise from couch potato land with this amazing form of workout,” Suzuki said. “It’s called intenSati.”

The front half of the name “inten” stems from the word “intention,” Suzuki said. “Sati is a Pali word that means mindfulness or awareness.”

Cardio plus mantras is this neuroscientist’s preferred exercise for brain health

IntenSati involves moving your body while speaking affirmations out loud, Suzuki said. It was created by Patricia Moreno in 2002.

“This workout pairs high-energy cardio moves with high-emotion mantras that will leave you uplifted, connected, and strong,” according to the official website for intenSati.

Speaking positive affirmations out loud can strongly impact your outlook on life and your overall mood, Suzuki said.

“If you shout out that you believe you will succeed, you are inspired, you are strong, for a whole hour with a whole bunch of other sweaty, affirmations-shouting people, you come out of that class feeling amazing.”

A recent study done at the University of California Berkeley encouraged 135 undergraduate students to say compassionate things to themselves for 20 seconds a day, coupled with compassionate touch like placing a hand on their heart. After one month of consistently doing this practice, students reported feeling less stress and seeing improvements in their mental health.

“But whatever the form of workout that you do, any time of day you can work out is the best time of day to workout because our lives are so busy,” Suzuki said.

A 2022 study that examined the health information of more than 500,000 people found that those who regularly engaged in vigorous physical activity like exercise and sports decreased their risk of developing dementia by 35%.

But even doing household chores regularly lowered an individual’s risk by 21%.

“Every single drop of sweat counts for your brain,” she said, “And that’s good news.”

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