Tag Archives: exercise

Reduce Rumination, Stress by Taking a Walk in Nature, Viewing Animals

More than 50% of people live in urban environments and most have relatively infrequent contact with nature, according to research published by the United Nations.

Theo Lorenc

Theo Lorenc

One consequence is that many urban dwellers with decreased exposure to nature report “changes in psychological functioning” including ruminative thoughts – repetitive thoughts about negative aspects of the self – and depressed feelings, found University College London’s Theo Lorenc, Mark Petticrew, and Steven Cummins with Stephen Clayton of University of Central Lancaster, and David Neary of University of Manchester, University of Liverpool’s Margaret Whitehead, Hilary Thomson of University of Glasgow,  University of York’s Amanda Jayne Sowden, and Adrian Renton of University of East London.

Stephen Clayton

Stephen Clayton

Contact with nature can affect cognitive performance as well as emotional experience: Children living in urban environments with consistent views of nature outside their windows, performed better on:

  • Working memory (backward digit span, backward alphabet span),
  • Impulse inhibition (matching familiar figures task),
  • Selective attention (Stroop color-word task),
  • Concentration (Necker Cube pattern control task), reported by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Andrea Faber Taylor, Frances Kuo, and William C. Sullivan.
Andrea Faber Taylor

Andrea Faber Taylor

Urban environments are thought to require substantial top-down voluntary attentional control to filter relevant from irrelevant stimuli.
At the same time, built landscapes can deplete cognitive resources, worsening performance on tasks requiring focused attention, noted University of Uppsala’s Terry HartigGary W. Evans of University of California, Irvine with Marlis Mang of Planning & Design Solutions.

Terry Hartig

Terry Hartig

Walking for 90 minutes in nature reduced ruminationblood flow, and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), reported Stanford’s Gregory N. Bratman, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, and James J. Gross with J. Paul Hamilton of Laureate Institute for Brain Research.
This brain area has been linked to self-focused behavioral withdrawal and rumination among both healthy and depressed people.

Gregory Bratman

Gregory Bratman

More than 35 volunteers rated their proneness to ruminate with negative thoughts, then half walked alone for 90-minutes without music through undeveloped open space hills through grassland with scattered shrubs and oak trees along a paved path.
They were told to take ten photographs of “whatever captured their attention” to disguise the study’s hypotheses.

Urban vs Rural Walks

Kevin Hahn

Kevin Hahn

Remaining participants walked alone without music down a busy, paved six-lane road with traffic for the same time period.

Following the walks, volunteers again rated their likelihood to repeatedly think negative thoughts.
They also completed a brain scan and cognitive and emotional assessment instruments including:

Lee Anna Clark

Lee Anna Clark

Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) developed by Southern Methodist University’s David Watson, with Lee Anna Clark and Auke Tellegen of University of Minnesota,

Backward digit span, developed by David Wechsler of Bellevue Hospital,

Jin Fan

Jin Fan

Attention Network Task (ANT- executive attention subtest), developed by Mount Sinai’s Jin Fan, Bruce D. McCandliss and John Fossella of Cornell, Yale’s Jonathan I. Flombaum and Michael I. Posner of University of Oregon,

Rumination-Reflection Questionnaire (RRQ) by Ohio State’s Paul Trapnell and Jennifer Campbell, including items like “I often reflect on episodes of my life that I should no longer concern myself with”),

Nash Unsworth

Nash Unsworth

Operation Span Task (OSPAN) developed by Georgia Tech’s Nash Unsworth, Richard Heitz and and Randall Engle with Josef Schrock o Marysville College,

State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), developed by University of South Florida’s Charles D. Spielberger, 

Visuospatial working memory (change detection), developed by University of Iowa’s Steven J. Luck and Edward K. Vogel,

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Brief Aerobic Exercise Increases Attention, Reading Performance

Michele Tine

Michele Tine

As little as 12 minutes of aerobic exercise increased selective attention and reading comprehension scores for low-income young adults at a highly selective, ”academically elite” (“Ivy League”) US undergraduate university, reported Dartmouth College’s Michele T. Tine and Allison G. Butler of Bryant University.

Alison Butler

Alison Butler

Even these highly-skilled participants, admitted to one of the US’s top academic institutions, had significantly different scores on Selective Visual Attention (SVA) and reading comprehension pre-test tasks, depending on their socio-economic status.

Courtney Stevens

Courtney Stevens

Selective Visual Attention (SVA) is the ability to focus on visual targets while ignoring irrelevant stimuli, and an Executive Function” (EF) required for academic and on-the-job learning, according to University of Oregon’s Courtney Stevens and Daphne Bavelier of University of Rochester.

Specifically, selective attention predicts skills in:

according to University of Oregon’s Stevens with Brittni Lauinger and Helen Neville.

Daniel Hackman

Daniel Hackman

Executive Functions, like Selective Visual Attention (SVA,) are positively correlated to socioeconomic status, found University of Pennsylvannia’s Daniel A Hackman and Martha J Farah, indicating that people with financial advantages often perform better on Executive Function tasks than people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Eric Zillmer

Eric Zillmer

One well-validated measure of Selective Visual Attention (SVA) is the d2 Test of Attention, rapid trials of a manual letter cancellation task, developed by Rolf Brickenkamp and Eric Zillmer of Drexel University.
Participants Tine and Butler’s investigation indicated when they observed the target character among visual distractors.

John Best

John Best

One intervention to increase Executive Function skills, including Selective Visual Attention (SVA) is aerobic exercise, according to University of British Columbia’s John Best.

James Williams

James Williams

In addition to increasing Executive Functions, aerobic exercise increases levels of cortisol and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
These elements are associated with cognitive performance including Selective Visual Attention (SVA), reported Texas Tech’s Lee T Ferris and Chwan-Li Shen with James S Williams of Texas State University, as well as University of Dublin’s Eadaoin W. Griffin, Sinead Mulally, Carole Foley, Stuart A. Warmington, Shane M. O’Mara, and Aine M. Kelly.

Éadaoin W Griffin

Éadaoin W Griffin

Likewise, stress increases levels of cortisol, and lower-income people tend to experience more chronic stress, leading to higher levels of cortisol, according to Northwestern’s Edith Chen and Gregory E. Miller with Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie, and separately by Cornell University’s Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg.

Edith Chen

Edith Chen

Tine and Butler investigated these diverse findings by asking volunteers to:

Gary Evans

Gary Evans

Items include:

  • My parent was fired from his/her job
  • I was a victim of a crime
  • A close friend or family member had health problems
  • My parents divorced or separated
  • I had problems being liked by classmates

Participants also completed three reading comprehension tasks from Sharon Weiner Green and Ira K. Wolf’s GRE Preparation items.

Douglas Williamson

Douglas Williamson

After 45 minutes, participants monitored heart rate to ensure that it was within 10 beats per minute of pre-test measures of resting heart rate.
Brief aerobic exercise sessions eliminated the gap between “Executive Function” performance scores for talented volunteers from lower-income and high-income backgrounds.

Lower-income participants who exercised aerobically had reading comprehension scores comparable to their higher-income counterparts, around 90%,
Likewise, people who exercised significantly improved Selective Visual Attention (SVA) scores, but the video-viewers’ scores did not change, suggesting that exercise was the “active ingredient” in these performance improvements.

In addition, volunteers who exercised and reported higher chronic stress level achieved higher SVA scores and greater SVA score improvement than those who reported less chronic stress.
Cognitive performance improvements were maintained 45 minutes after exercise.

These findings suggest aerobic exercise as an effective, low-cost intervention to reduce achievement differences between people from lower-income and more affluent backgrounds, and this could contribute to increasing the number of diverse applicants in selective higher education settings and skilled employment – as well as increasing endurance, cardiac health, and reducing stress.

-*How have you seen workplaces encourage participation in aerobic exercise for the next generation of potential employees as well as current employees?

-*Do organizations receive more benefit from reducing health care costs and health-related absences or from increasing attention, innovation, and productivity?

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Listening to Music Increases Endurance, Reduce Perceived Discomfort in Physical Exercise

Costas Karageorghis

Costas Karageorghis

Listening to up-tempo music synchronized to low- or moderate-intensity exercise can distract from fatigue and discomfort and reduce oxygen consumption, according to Sheffield Hallam University’s CJ Bacon and TR Myers, and Brunel University’s Costas Karageorghis.

They found that cyclists who listened to synchronous up-tempo music used 7% less oxygen than those who cycled in silence.

Peter C Terry

Peter C Terry

Listening to music synchronized with exercise elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and increases metabolic efficiency, according to University of South Queensland’s Peter C. Terry, who collaborated with Karageorghis to produce a comprehensive review of psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise.

Karageorghis collaborated with Brunel colleagues Denis A. Mouzourides, Tariq A. Sasso, Daley J. Morrish, and Carolyn L. Walley with David-Lee Priest of University of East Anglia,  to conclude that “
motivational qualities of music have considerable bearing on how long participants might endure a repetitive activity and their feelings during the task.”

David-Lee Priest

David-Lee Priest

They pointed to the public health and social implications of their findings when they asserted that “motivational synchronous music may serve as an important tool to underpin current initiatives of Western governments to improve public health and lessen the financial burdens on public health services.”

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-*How do you use music to enable task persistence?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Physical Exercise – Part 5 of 5

Michael Hopkins-David Bucci

Michael Hopkins-David Bucci

“The positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” argue Michael Hopkins, FC DavisMichelle VanTieghemPaul Whalen and David Bucci of Dartmouth.

Michelle VanTieghem

Michelle VanTieghem

They compared effects of a single exercise session or repeated sessions on non-exercising volunteers who were genotyped to determine brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a nerve growth factor important in long-term memory.

Paul Whalen

Paul Whalen

Participants were measured on novel object recognition (NOR) memory and mental health dimensions before and after engaging in a 4-week exercise program or a single exercise session.

More frequent exercisers performed better on object recognition memory and said they experienced less stress, but only when their 4 week program included a final test.
In contrast, a single exercise session did not affect recognition memory and resulted in increased perceived stress levels.

This study found no relationship between exercise-induced cognitive benefits and changes in mood and anxiety, suggesting that perceived stress is controlled by a different neural system.

Timothy Schoenfeld

Timothy Schoenfeld

In contrast, Princeton’s Timothy Schoenfeld, Pedro Rada, Pedro Pieruzzini, Brian Hsueh, and Elizabeth Gould, reported different results with mice.
They investigated the paradox of exercise:  It promotes new, excitable brain cells that can aid learning and memory, yet exercise can induce calm in various brain areas.

Elizabeth Gould

Elizabeth Gould

Schoenfeld and team controlled for pre-existing nervousness in adult mice and allowed half to exercise and half to remain sedentary over a six week period.

Exercisers were more willing to cautiously explore and spend time in open areas, suggesting they were more confident and less anxious than their sedentary counterparts.

Brian Hsueh

Brian Hsueh

The runners’ brains developed new, excitable neurons in the hippocampus’ ventral region, associated with processing emotions and releasing GABA, which inhibits brain activity such as the subjective experience of anxiety.

All animals encountered the physical stress of cold water for five minutes, and showed many immediate early genes indicating neuron firing.
However, the runner rats calmed more rapidly due to their release of GABA after this physical stress.

Though this study was conducted with animals, the findings suggest that physical exercise builds capacity to recover more rapidly from stress by regulating anxiety through ventral hippocampus inhibition.

Brett Klika

Brett Klika

Like other stress management recommendations, regular exercise is difficult for many to adopt as an habit.
For reluctant exercisers, Brett Klika and Chris Jordan of Human Performance Institute offer a rapid but challenging solution: “Seven Minutes of Steady Discomfort.”

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan

Their Scientific 7-Minute Workout includes 12 exercises using a chair, wall and body weight, for interval training alternating large muscles in the upper and lower body.
Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds, at a discomfort rating of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 10 second rest between.
Though quick, this routine may not be easy, and further willpower may be needed to adopt this approach.

Kirsten Burgomaster

Kirsten Burgomaster

McMaster University’s Kirsten BurgomasterKrista Howarth, Stuart PhillipsMaureen MacDonaldSL McGeeMartin Gibala with Mark Rakobowchuk now of Brunel University validated Klika and Jordan’s proposed Seven Minutes of Discomfort.

Stuart Phillips

Stuart Phillips

They noted that even a few minutes of training at an intensity approaching maximum capacity produces molecular changes within muscles comparable to those of several hours of endurance training like running or bike riding.

John Salamone

John Salamone

Motivational help may be available by activating nucleus accumbens dopamine, which can regulate motivation and lead to goal initiation and persistence, according to University of Connecticut’s John Salamone and Mercè Correa of Universitat Jaume I of Castellón.

Mercè Correa

Mercè Correa

They refined the common assumption that dopamine is associated with reward systems and noted that nucleus accumbens dopamine, involved in appetitive and aversive motivational processes, may provide a biochemical approach to managing motivation and task persistence.

Though it may be difficult to muster the motivation to exercise regularly, these research findings suggest that regular exercise can lead to increased coping and cognitive abilities.

-*To what extent should workplaces promote exercise to reduce stress and increase cognitive performance?

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RELATED POSTS

Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

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Look for related posts on:

  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Mindful Attention (Part 2)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)

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