Setting brain healthy habits this spring
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, talks to us about taking on a new challenge this spring, following the birth of her second child.
Before launching Think Brain Health back in January, we found that two-thirds of people said the COVID-19 pandemic had prompted them to think about making changes to improve their health. I’m definitely one of those people.
Reports are showing that more of us are walking, running and cycling now. Record numbers of people are logging activities using fitness apps and smartwatches. Strava has seen an 82% rise in activity from UK users, with Garmin Connect users logging 55% more walking activities during 2020 than the year before.
It’s clear that carving out time to get active during the pandemic is extremely important to many of us.
Like so many others, my efforts to keep moving during lockdown began with PE with Joe in the living room with my three-year old, and lunchtime walks trying to help my new baby daughter to nap.
And more recently, after deciding it was time to up the ante, I took on the Give Five challenge.
Give Five means completing a five-day activity streak for five weeks in a row. But the great thing about is that you can do whatever activities you want, as long as you get your blood pumping.
For me, this involves cycling, running, or walking, (often with a buggy or baby on my back!) five days a week for five weeks.
I’ve been out in the wind, rain, and more recently, the sunshine, but the real highlights have been the walks and jogs with my son.
He doesn’t love running up hills. But taking it slowly and stopping to pick up sticks on the way home means I have a chance to rest and enjoy the start of spring.
I’m really enjoying getting out and starting to get fitter. The challenge is giving me the motivation to keep at it, and as brain health starts with the heart, it’s good for my brain health too.
There’s something about being out in the fresh air that helps me think more clearly and feel calmer and more positive about the day ahead too.
But being physically active for your body and brain doesn’t have to mean running or cycling – it’s about finding activities you enjoy and committing to doing them regularly.
With restrictions beginning to ease and brighter weather on the horizon, we can start to enjoy some of the hobbies and activities we might have taken for granted in the past too. And savour the opportunity to get stuck into them again.
So to echo what Prof Gill Livingstone wrote in her post last month, with such a spotlight on the nation’s health, now is the time to refocus on the importance of looking after our incredible brains.
And what better time to set brain healthy habits than spring?
About the author
Hilary is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity working at a global level towards a world where people are free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, to increase dementia research funding and improve the environment for dementia scientists in the UK and internationally.