Train your brain at the gym

Written by Sabi Phagura on . Posted in Cycling, Fitness

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So we’re getting quite good at going to the gym or taking part in some kind of physical activity which is great. But cast your mind back and can you recall the last time you exercised your brain? That’s probably a mind boggling question in itself! Well hardly surprising with all the lounging around we do watching reality tv shows or simply spending a lot of time on social media.

According a new survey commissioned by the Open University, over half of us have not actively learnt anything new for over a month A fifth of those surveyed admitted to not consciously learning anything for over a year. In a bid to change this, OU has teamed up with David Lloyd Clubs by launching a class which aims to encourage people to match the hours they spend working out with the time spent training their brains. I went along to their Fulham Broadway branch to test it out.

The class took the form of group cycling with an instructor and a massive TV screen to the side of him. We were explained that we would be weaving in bursts of high intensity cycling with a money management taster course called Managing my Money created by Martin Upton, senior lecturer in finance at the OU’s Business School.

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After a brief explanation of how to operate the bikes (they are all different) we eased ourselves into a warm up. So far so good. Before we knew it we were watching the first clip while continuing to peddle so to keep the heart rate up. But it wasn’t until we actually got involved in the main body of the session that I felt this class was going to be really tough. The intensity was huge and I felt my legs were going to fall off. But we were reminded that we would be slowing down when we watched the short video in between and they would be our rest periods. Somehow knowing that helped so I tried to push myself as hard as I could.

The breaks were really welcoming and I tried to concentrate on the screen and not my aching legs. It did take a few seconds though for me to focus on the video. But once I did, it was a welcome distraction as I started to think about my own financial situation. Had I a five year plan? A ten year plan? Was I making the right financial choices? These questions buzzed around my head as we went into our intense cycling rounds. And even though I knew I was working hard (not least because the instructor came to check up on our gears and speed!) I was distracted by the information I was picking up on the screen.

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We had several short breaks which were planned out well throughout the hour-long class. At the end we were tested via a quiz to check whether we had been concentrating or not. I passed with flying colours of course. Proof I can multi task.

When I was first exposed to the Brain Gym concept, I thought it would be counterproductive. I have always seen people read while on a stationary bike or a cross trainer and thought how can you concentrate on getting a good workout? But because this class was taking turns to focus on the physical and mental exercises, it really worked. This training can be described as a HIIT session where you are working at high intensity at intervals and therefore burning more fat overall. This encourages you to work harder because you know that rest periods are coming up.

I thoroughly enjoyed the class and would love to see more classes like this across other gyms too. Just imagine if you went along to a weekly session you would learn at least 52 things annually not to mention acquiring a cracking body at the end of it. Now that is something to smile about and get those facial muscles working too!

For further information on The Open University and to download a copy of the latest ‘Get Started’ guide visit here.

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Sabi Phagura

I am a freelance journalist and lifestyle blogger. I travel the world covering travel, destinations, hotel, spas and bar reviews and love fitness. This blog illustrates how you can lead a healthy lifestyle, travel the world and still have a life! I am also a qualified fitness instructor, Punjabi-Hindi interpreter and a champagne and rum enthusiast.

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