Multitasking gets a bad rap sometimes. After all, some studies have concluded that too much multitasking results in higher levels of stress and lower levels of productivity. But is there a time and a place for multitasking? What about multitasking while you exercise?
The surprising outcome from one small study published in a science journal, PLOS ONE, suggests that performing cognitive tasks while exercising may actually enhance physical performance. And we already know that exercise boosts mental performance, so training your brain while you’re working out is a win-win situation.
I believe there are some forms of exercise that require full concentration, like lifting weights and HIIT. But I love to add some mental stimulation to my cardio! And if you can kill two birds with one stone by getting smarter while you work out, why not seize that opportunity?
Here are a few ideas for training your brain while you train your body:
1. Listen to podcasts on the treadmill
Next time you hit the treadmill and pop in your earbuds, mix it up by choosing a podcast to listen to instead of music. Podcasts are an amazing way to learn new things, gain new insights, and feel inspired. Some studies show that podcasts can also boost creativity and help create more vivid mental images. The theory goes that listening to podcasts regularly can also help you become a better listener in general.
New to podcasts and not sure where to start? Check out this great roundup of podcasts for the aspiring entrepreneur.
2. Read a book while on the stationary bike
This has personally been my favorite multitasking exercise for the past couple of months. I used to only have time for a little reading in the evening while winding down for the night. Now I take my Kindle to the gym and read while I cycle. I’m getting through books twice as fast since I started doing this. I’ll clear two chapters (and ten miles) in one sitting!
I like to stick with books about motivation or personal development. (Stay tuned for a great post coming up on the best books to read this summer!). In my experience, the stationary bike is the best place to get your book-nerd on because it’s easier to keep good form and posture than on other cardio equipment. But you could just as easily download an audiobook and take it with you on the rowing machine, stair-master, and beyond!
3. Watch a documentary while on the elliptical
Documentaries are an important, educational form of media available for us to consume and learn from, yet I believe few of us make the time to actually watch them. Netflix has a ton of interesting documentaries at your disposal, you need only to download one or two onto your iPad and take it with you to the gym for your next elliptical workout. Watch some business documentaries for some inspiration! (Generation Startup, anyone?).
4. Meditate while you run
Science has made some amazing discoveries about the physical benefits of meditation, including heightened cognitive function and intelligence. It can even make your brain bigger! Running meditation is a fantastic way to burn some calories while literally building your brain. But it’s all too easy to lose out on the benefits of running meditation with loud music and racing thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good running playlist! But mix it up and try your next run sans music. You might find you like it even better!
How exactly do you run and meditate? Simply make a conscious effort to be aware of the present, focusing on your breath as you run. Anytime your attention begins to wander or you start thinking about something else, bring your attention back to the road ahead of you, and your breathing.
5. Brainstorm while you power-walk
The New Yorker published a piece about a small study that found those who went walking came up with more ideas than those who remained seated. I have personally found that I always get my best ideas while I’m walking. A brisk walk around the block is perfect for idea-generating because you don’t have to focus on the activity as much as you would with more rigorous forms of cardiovascular exercise. You can walk more or less on “autopilot,” which frees up the mind to focus on brainstorming.
Considering how busy and time-crunched many of us are, we should take advantage of the benefits of multitasking during exercise. Even if you only incorporate cognitive work in with your workouts once or twice a week, think of how much you can learn, grow, and accomplish after a few months! It’s further evidence that physical and mental activity is the key to long-term health, happiness, and success.
Corrie Alexander is a content creator and customer service manager from Toronto, Ontario. Her climb up the corporate ladder cultivated her interest in the topic of career development, a passion rivaled only by her love of exercise and strong coffee. Visit her website, thefitcareerist.com, and follow her on Twitter here.
Image via Unsplash