Category Archives: Brain Hacks

Easy ways to enhance learning, thinking and overall cognition.

How To Get Fit Without Breaking The Bank

get fit on a budgetThere is no way to get fit without exercising on a regular basis. While maintaining a healthy diet is very important, dieting alone will not help you lose weight and keep it off. You need to exercise at least three times a week, although daily exercise is ideal.

While exercising does take time, it does not have to be an expensive venture. Running, jogging or even walking are all great forms of exercise to choose from and they do not cost any money. Biking is also a great way to get exercise and you can even buy a secondhand bike from Craigslist or a local flea market sale. If you have a pool, then swimming is yet another good way to get daily exercise.

On the other hand, if the weather is very hot in the summer or very cold in the winter, then it may be a good idea to invest in exercise equipment for the home. That way, you can keep up your exercise routine no matter what the weather is like. If you only have time to exercise late at night or early in the morning, then exercising at home may be more suitable than going out to exercise, especially if you have small children.

Those who are looking for a good piece of exercise equipment should consider investing in a treadmill. A treadmill is particularly ideal if you are not in the habit of exercising on a regular basis, as you can set the treadmill to a slow speed and then use a fast speed as you get used to working out regularly. Many treadmills will register your heartbeat, the distance you have walked and how many calories you burned over the course of your workout. There are many treadmills on the market and you can often find great treadmill deals online.

An elliptical can also provide a good workout. These machines can be found for sale at a good price online and there are many models to choose from. A person simply needs to choose a model that suits his or her needs and budget.

An alternative to buying an exercise machine would be to invest in workout DVDs. Along with these DVDs, you will need to buy a mat and in some cases a set of weights. Some popular workout DVDs to choose from include “The Firm” and “P90X”, although the latter series should only be used by those who are used to working out regularly.

Working out regularly can help you lose weight, get fit, sleep better at night and reduce stress. Regular exercise also boosts your immune system and protects your body from getting sick. You do not need to spend a lot of money to get a good workout. All you have to do is choose a form of exercise that best suits your needs and then invest in the necessary equipment. No matter how busy your schedule is or how long you have gone without regular exercise, you will find that working out regularly is well worth the time and effort.

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About the Authors:

Joyce G. is a professional health blogger and writer. She currently partners with in raising awareness about the importance of health and fitness. NordicTrack has come to symbolize the means for serious athletes and fitness-buffs alike to “get ready for adventure,” whatever that may be. Visit our website to find great treadmill deals.

Exercise Makes You Smarter

A new study conducted at the University of Minnesota shows that exercising makes rats smarter – just another reason that we should be exercising regularly.

Basically, they split some rats into 3 different groups – those who weren’t given access to exercise, those who had an exercise wheel available to them to use as they pleased, and those who were forced to exercise daily for 45 minutes. After 5 weeks, the rats were then tested by exposing them to a noise, and an electric shock that would follow. The rats who were able to associate the noise with the upcoming shock were able to run to the other side of the enclosure to get away from the impending pain. Researchers found that the rats who had exercised were far more likely to figure this out, and get away from the shock. The sedentary rats were likely to just sit there and endure the shock, rather than use problems solving. To read more about the experiment, check it out here.

Studies have been conducted in humans as well, and it’s very apparent that being active is healthy, not only for your body, but also for your brain and mental capacity. Just take a look at this very cool infographic explaining the benefits of exercise in humans.

How Working Out Can Make You Smarter Infographic

Source Here

Mind Map

This is a very useful trick for getting your mind to work a little bit differently.  If you are at work and have hit that creative barrier,  that impenetrable. The bad news is, that wall is only created by your creative limitation.  The good news is, your mind is not a well it won’t run dry.  However sometimes you do have to squeeze it a bit or turn it around to get the juices flowing again.  That is precisely what mind mapping does.  This exercise engages the mind in an analytic and creative way so it really helps to dig up buried thoughts that may not have been found otherwise.  Ok, enough with the benefits I bet your wondering how to do it.

This, conveniently enough, is a mind map of, well, mind mapping.  There are some simple steps to follow.

Start with a center topic.

Extend to subtopics

Extend again to sub subtopics 

Here is the tip to really make your brain mechanisms turn over on themselves.  Draw as much as you can.  Try to use simple one word phrases, or just a simple picture if you can.  With your first mind map it will be difficult to not write out an entire sentence as a topic; fight the urge.  Start with something you know about, that way you can get a feel for making the mind maps, and don’t get frustrated or overwhelmed.   Another tip, if you have a question about whether or not something applies to the subject, the answer is yes.  Finding connections is what creativity is all about.  So if you think it fits it does.

 Here are some examples of some pretty creative mind maps.

Remember that a mind map is personal.  Neurologist say that brains are set up very much like fingerprints there are no two alike in this whole world.  That means you mind map will be unique as well.  Do not feel like you have to copy someone else’s map. Just do what you do.  Try it out it is a real fun way to get your mind juices flowing.

Seven Tips To Make Exercise Stick

1. Exercise Every Monday

The body thrives on routine.  In fact, if you continuously exercise on any specific day of the week, a psychological and physiological pattern will be developed. The psychological part is pretty neat, in that you will be more motivated and willing to get up, as it is part of your routine.  Though the real kicker comes from the physiological habit being formed. The body will actually start producing more energy so that you can workout on that day.  You may notice if you ever miss working out that day for some reason an immense amount of pent up energy.


2. Never Go More Than One Day Without Working Out

Rest days are fine, and in some cases more beneficial than not.  However, you should never allow yourself to go more than one day without exercise.  This is to prevent you from falling into the deadly grasps of indolence.  It is the same mentality that comes with cigarettes or alcohol, “once you have one what is the harm of one more?” Do not allow yourself to fall victim to such thoughts. Stay adamant in your resolve, and workout out every other day at least no matter how inconvenient it gets.


3. Do It First Thing When Waking Up

Here are three reasons to do it first thing in the morning.

  • It sets the pace for the rest of the day
  • It stimulates metabolism, exciting weight loss.
  • It is easiest to get your exercise routine checked of the list first thing.


4. Don’t Kid Yourself

Be realistic about your goals.  Even though Beyonce lost 60 pounds in 4 months, you will probably want a goal a little easier than that.  It is possible to burn an extra 2,000 calories a day, but that requires hours on a treadmill and diet specifically limited to salads.  So instead of trying to copy the methods of a super star, who has unlimited resources, private chefs, and presonal trainers.  Why don’t you aim for say 1,000 calories a day.  That is still 30 pounds in 4 months. Whatever your goal is, make it something that you know you can see through, and then stick to it.


5. Make it Part of Your Preparation

This is a great tip that helps me to stay motivated.  I try to imagine what I am training for.  And for me that is easy, I want to look good with my shirt off.  You can never be too sure when someone is going to need you to take of your shirt.  Though, if you are into sports, athletic activities or if you have a special event coming up, think about that. Just imagine your workouts as part of the preparation.  Try to visualize the reward.


6. Aim For Better, Not Perfect

No body is perfect, so quite beating yourself up about it. Never let perfection get in the way of getting better.  Do not for one second think that it is not worth it if you cannot run for 3 miles.  The whole point of exercise is becoming a better ‘you’, so do what ‘you’ can do.


7. Make it Affordable

This is a good tip because it helps to keep people grounded and down to earth about their exercise routines.  There is no need to invest hundreds of dollars into a ‘total gym’ or a ‘state of the art treadmill’. Not to say that those things will not make it easier to exercise, because they certainly will.  Just, they are not really necessary. In an earlier post about INSANITY we talked about a workout routine that was all  based on body weight resistance. Point is, you do not need special equipment or even a gym membership to start exercising.

3 Techniques to Create Creativity

Every once in a while on this site we take a break from the old “fitness fanatic” angle and we look at much simpler approaches to improving our lives. Today I would like to share with you some very interesting techniques to creating creativity.

Doodle Notes

Visual Notes
They are notes not masterpieces

The Wall Street Journal discussed how some companies were taking new approaches to developing creativity in their offices. The employees are encouraged to take visual notes (a.k.a. doodle). Big firms are holding seminars and training their employees in what is known as ‘visual note taking’. Some companies are even going so far as to hire graphic recorders, sort of like a stenographer but they doodle instead of type.

Doodling does a number of things that stimulate creativity. They help to generate ideas by illuminating concepts in a new light. They fuel collaboration, adding to a doodle is much easier than adding to an essay. Most of all they simplify communication, they express ideas in a simple and understandable way. So next time you are in class or at work taking notes, work in a few doodle illustrations as well.

Exercise Your Working Memory , a great website, shared a very interesting research done by Ph. D of psychological studies, Art Markman.  His research suggest that working memory plays a large role in creativity.  Working memory is the memory you use in daily life, your working knowledge, kind of like your RAM.  This is not to be confused with your long term memory.  Long term memory includes all those fun memories of playing in the backyard as a kid.

Now there isn’t any definitive way to develop working memory, but there are a few approaches that are believed to help. According to a study done by PNAS games like duel n-back actually increase working memory and fluid intelligence.  So start playing more brain games.

Improved Vocabulary and Comprehension

Most everyone will say that their thoughts come as words in their head.  If you want to be able to better express yourself better then developing vocabulary is key.  Not only will you communicate better with those around you but you will also begin to notice your thoughts becoming more in depth.

Vocabulary is easy enough to develop, all you have to do is add one word to your word-stock every day.  Also start reading heavier books, this will help you to improve your comprehension and thus improve your thinking and creative abilities.



Einstein’s Key to Problem Solving

“If I was asked to save the world in a single hour, I would spend 55 minutes identifying the problem and 5 minutes formulating a solution.” Einstein’s little quote illustrates an essential point to problem solving, identifying the problem is much more important than scrambling for an answer.

What I think Mister Einstein was trying to say is, the quality of the solution is going to be directly proportional to the quality of the question.  Better questions precede better answers, in depth questions precede in depth answers, and accurate questions precede accurate answers.  So if you want to find a good solution you must first formulate a good question.

Problem Solving
Solve problems like this

How does one formulate a good question?


Rephrase the problem

Toyota executive asked his employees to brainstorm “ways to increase their productivity”.  He got zero input.  He then asked them to brainstorm “ways to make their job easier”.  This time he got more suggestions than he could even use.

Words hold a lot of meaning.  Even though both the phrases mean the same thing, one elicits a very different response.  An easy trick is to use synonyms.   You want to ‘increase your audience’.  Replace ‘increase’ with ‘extend’, ‘spread’, ‘cover’ or ‘attract’. Notice how the problem changes.

Reword the problem several times, and don’t be too concerned with losing the meaning of the question.


Multiple perspectives

Looking at a situation with different eyes is going to provide instant insight to the problem.  Say you want to ‘increase your audience’.  Look at the situation from the audience perspective, look at it from your perspective, then try to look at it from an outside perspective (perhaps imagine being someone that neither writes nor reads your blog.)

Now try to imagine how different people might view your situation.  How would a college professor see it, or a politician, a mechanic, or a Christian?  I don’t know, imagine all the different angles you can.


Reverse the Problem

Take the problem from the heels and hang it upside down.  If you are trying to win, look at all the things that will make you lose.  If you are trying to ‘increase your audience’ look at all the things that are going to make you ‘lose your audience’.

Once you have some clear cut ways to lose, take those answers and reverse them.  Now you have some clear cut ways to win.

This probably may seem like a convoluted way to go about things.  But this method usually turns up some obvious answers that may have gone unnoticed otherwise.


Gather Facts

Investigate the problem, do a little research.  Look at the circumstance and probe the problem for details, such as its origins or causes.  Many times we are faced with problem that is just too vague. A little investigative research can clear that right up.

An example of a vague problem is when your spouse says “you never listen to me”.  Now of course that is a hasty generalization. To hone in on the problem you must ask questions like, what does she mean?  Eventually, you will find what she means to say is, “you do not look at me enough when I’m talking to you.” This problem is much easier to fix.