At first glance, you might not realize that an exercise habit is directly linked to your brain’s executive functioning. I was considering this fact last week as I did my three-mile Sunday jog around my neighborhood. I’ve been doing this for so long that I have forgotten when I started. I had to ask myself: what executive functions am I engaging when I make the choice to exercise? According to the model put forth by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, two very well respected leaders in the world of EF’s, here are the executive functions that we use when we decide to exercise:
Typically when I jog, I cross paths with a few neighbors. Often it is Helen, a younger woman. I can hear her coming up behind me, her feet keeping a much faster pace than mine. She may pass me three times before I finish my three miles.
Another neighbor is Jan, 90-years young, who walks around the block, albeit very slowly these days. As I passed him for the second time, he commented that he was not winning the race. I laughed and told him about how Helen makes me feel so slow. “We’re not racing,” I said, “but we get points just for being out, moving our bodies,” (and helping our brain health too).
Jan shared with me that in his younger days he walked to and from work at Portland State University. It is a three and half mile trip one way with a very significant hill which, in some states, would be a called a mountain. That story inspired me. I bet all of that exercise has helped with his longevity. He still has a great mind too!
So, take a look at your brain and your executive skills. Which skills do you need to focus on to develop and maintain an exercise habit? Then you start, with just one step at a time.
Little by little,
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.