Take a second to imagine what a stack of 1 billion dollars looks like, you can even google it if you'd like. It is a substantial amount of money, enough to fill 10 pallets stacked to the height of a person. Now, try to imagine what $446 billion dollars looks like. Can you? I can't. Yet, that is the amount of money the United States pharmaceutical market rakes in every year. It is so large, that it holds over 45% of the world's pharmaceutical market (Laporte, 2018).
Now imagine that there is a drug that would cost you nothing financially to take and is in never-ending supply. You've already guessed what it is thanks to the title of this article, it's exercise, and it is so powerful when regularly "taken" that you could throw out your Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix, Crestor, and Actos, which by the way, are 10 of the most commonly prescribed drugs today (DeNoon, 2018).
"Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today."
BRAIN HYPERTROPHY: Both amazing and possible
For the non-fitness nerds amongst us, hypertrophy is the scientific term for 'swoll', 'buff', 'jacked', so in other terms, it is the growth in size and (as a result) the strength of a muscle. It is fairly obvious that with frequent exercise, particularly resistance training, your muscles begin to hypertrophy, but did you know that this can actually happen to your brain as well?
Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki summarizes the PSA-style point in her Ted Talk, The brain-changing effects of exercise, in that exercise is a "miracle drug" for your body and mind. As a neuroscientist, she became very intrigued on how exercise affects the brain and summarized an enormous amount of research, which we will dive into below. Prepare for your mind to be blown (pun intended)!
The Big 4
Negative Side Effects
For more side effects, most of which are hilarious, check out this article by "Greatist".
The Question Everyone is Asking: How much?
This is a fair question being that your pharmacist lays out a detailed time table for your prescription. According to recent research, the minimum amount of exercise needed is a meager 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 3-4x/week. And this does not need to involve heading down to the local gym, it could include activities as simple as aggressively vacuuming your house and rearranging your living-room furniture.
Get Your Office Active
You would think that sitting around at your desk more leads to greater work output, but the opposite is actually true. The average American workplace is becoming increasingly more sedentary. In 1950, 30% of Americans worked in high-activity occupations. By 2000, only 22% worked in high-activity occupations. Conversely, the percent of people working in low-activity occupations spiked by 14% in that same 50 year period, jumping from 23 to 41%. Ironically, this decreased physical activity leads to presenteeism (physically at work, but mentally somewhere else) and absenteeism (have to take leave from work due to illness or injury), both of which obviously contribute to lower work output levels (ACSM, 2018).
Perhaps you work in a company that has recognized the direct and indirect costs of inactivity, and has created a few workplace initiatives to combat this. Some examples may include bike to work programs, worksite wellness initiatives, treadmill or standing desks, or paid workout time. Did you just say paid workout time? Heck yeah I did. Why aren't more companies doing this?!
What other companies are doing
Google is an excellent example of a company who actively wants to improve the health of its employees, so much so that it has its on research and development team on the subject. The workplace is pimped out with a slide, ping-pong tables, nap pods, swimming pools, and even LEGO stations.
Motley Fool, a company that specializes in stock analysis, gives all of its employees access to free personal training sessions and wellness consultations as well as 50% reimbursements on race fees. This has skyrocketed wellness engagement in the company to around 86%.
Zappos, like Google and Motley Fool, employe a wellness coordinator, who has created free fitness classes, nap rooms, marathon reimbursements, and reduced gym memberships. Their coordinator, Kelly Maher says, "It's about getting people to want to do things voluntarily, not forcing them. Success programs are the ones that get team members energized versus forcing it on them."
As Ghandi so eloquently put, "Be the change you want to see in the world." So in this situation, your world constitutes home, work, and social lives, right? Well, why not test the waters a bit and see if you can be a trend setter at your work (or even at home!) by starting a challenge or getting more people on board with being active. It benefits both you, them, and your company! A true win win.
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). (2018) Schools and workplaces. Retrieved March 2nd, 2018 from https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/schools-and-workplaces/
Suzuki, W., Dr. (2018, February 28). The brain-changing benefits of exercise. Lecture presented at TED Talks Daily.
Rothfeld, L. (2015, May 15). 7 companies with amazingly unique wellness programs. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://mashable.com/2015/05/15/unique-corporate-wellness-programs/#Un5v9n4v6EqR
Laporte, J. (2018). Topic: Pharmaceutical Industry in the U.S. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/topics/1719/pharmaceutical-industry/
DeNoon, D. J. (2018). The 10 Most Prescribed Drugs: Most-prescribed drug list differs from list of drugs with biggest market share. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/drug-medication/news/20110420/the-10-most-prescribed-drugs#2