“It took us centuries to learn that it doesn’t have to take centuries to learn.” -Anij, Star Trek: Insurrection

The Mind-Body Connection: Boosting your Learning Ability Through Physical Exercise

When I was doing sales for a tech storage company, sales gurus were constantly telling us to be lifelong learners. They said things like our earning power was directly tied to our learning power. And that we should commit ourselves to lifelong learning because the most valuable asset we possess is our minds.

Now it’s no secret that our mental abilities lose their sharpness as we get older. Like our physical abilities, our mental capabilities decline with age. But scientific studies are starting to put some muscle behind some intuitions I’ve had for some time. I’ve been a student of Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, and Brian Tracy since I discovered Nightingale-Conant. And one of the recurring memes in my studies was we can control the effects of aging on our bodies through our diet and activities.

Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

Now, check out this article on learning and education I found in my early days of teaching the Dale Carnegie course. It ties a person’s cognitive ability and their mental health to their overall physical health.

As stated previously, the link between exercise and diet to your overall health has been with us for some time. Maintaining a well-balanced and diverse diet, coupled with aerobic physical activity has long been known to impact your emotional state.  In fact, most people I’ve talked to said they feel like they have more energy after exercising.  Or they feel more alert after a diet that doesn’t involve ingesting MSG or a pound of turkey.

But I haven’t heard someone say, “I feel mentally sharper” after they’ve run 15 miles. They don’t say, “I just had a eureka moment” after leaving the gym. In light of these findings, however, it’s something that we’ll need to pay attention to in the future.

For example, the study referenced in this article correlates the effects of obesity to brain aging, citing that obese people have 8% less brain tissue than a person of normal weight. And their brains looked 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals.

Now I’m not sure how a brain looks when it’s “16 years older”. But as people live longer and “the 50s becomes the new 30s”, these findings will play an important factor in preventing age related dementia like Alzheimer’s disease.

Don’t Like Losing Your Mind? Try Building Your Brain

For those people that use an NLP “moving towards” strategy as opposed to a “moving away” strategy, here’s basically the same findings stated in a different way. In short, the team at CLO outlined that you can improve your ability to learn and retain information simply by exercising more.

And in this article by Dr John Day, he provides the definition for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), how it’s important to your overall longevity and mental sharpness, and then gives 10 ways you can boost your own BDNF production.

That list of 10 ways to increase BDNF are below:

  1. Exercise
  2. Avoid sugar, process food, and high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Intermittent fasting (I was floored by this one. You’ll have to read the article to get the skinny).
  4. Mental stimulation (i.e. use it or lose it).
  5. Eat oily fish (preferably the cold-water version like salmon. Gotta pump up the omega-3 fatty acids).
  6. Build relationships with family and friends.
  7. Get some sun (to boost your body’s production of vitamin D).
  8. Eat more curry/turmeric, red grapes, and blueberries.
  9. Reduce stress.
  10. Get more sleep (at least 7 hours nightly).

Learning and the Dale Carnegie Course

Now, here’s something interesting. The 9th item listed, reducing stress, is something we look at in detail in the Dale Carnegie Course. In fact, instructors devote one quarter of the course to controlling stress and worry. In the programs I instructed, we spent a healthy amount of time using a variety of methods putting stress and worry in their proper place. You can find those methods listed here.

The other item you’ll find interesting is the 6th entry, building relationships with family and friends. Again, the bulk of the Dale Carnegie Course is structured to teaching individuals a number of different strategies to build out their interpersonal skills and cultivate their leadership skills. And as we highlight in the program, it’s all about the communication processes that lets you develop those relationships.

In short, the Dale Carnegie Course can directly impact your brain’s aging, boost your intellect, and keep you looking beautiful!

As we move forward in our global economy, we’ll need to use all our assets as efficiently as possible.  This means you’ll need to nurture and develop all your assets as often as you can. So, exercise regularly, maintain a balanced and fulfilling diet, and use these Dale Carnegie principles to maintain a healthy mental attitude and perspective on the events in your life.

P.S.  If you are in the Central Valley area in California, you can find out more information on the Dale Carnegie Course here.