These easy body-clock secrets will help you go-go-go as you enter the busy fall season.
Speed Slimming with a sunny stretch session.
Whether you go for a walk or do simple stretches, getting 15 minutes of outdoor exercise first thing in the morning helps you burn up to 20 percent more fat than activities done indoors or later in the day. That’s the word from researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, who found that pairing activity and morning sun exposure increases the body’s production of vitamin D, activating genes that convert calories into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the body’s key source of cellular fuel.
Improve focus with a creative break.
The brain’s prefrontal cortex (the region that helps you stay clearheaded, think ahead, and make sound decisions) becomes sluggish midmorning. But you can counter that slump by taking a 10-minute break to focus on a creative task requiring hand-eye coordination (like coloring or knitting). Canadian researchers say this strategy energizes the prefrontal cortex, sharpening focus, concentration, and memory by as much as 32 percent.
Slash stress with midday “B’s.”
The adrenal glands release hormones called glucocorticoids that help you sail through hectic days by raising your spirits, calming your nerves and shielding your brain from the negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol. The problem: Glucocorticoid release dips in the middle of the day, leaving you feeling stressed and edgy. But Japanese researchers say taking a basic B-complex vitamin at lunch stimulates glucocorticoid production in as little as 30 minutes, giving you up to four hours of calm, steady energy.
Boost mood with a chilly treat.
It’s not just you! Afternoon mood dips are built into our circadian rhythm: A few hours after lunch, the brain releases adenosine, a compound that latches on to nerve endings to make you feel groggy and blah. The feel-great Rx? Treat yourself to an ice pop, iced cappuccino, or other cool treat. According to Australian researchers, the small uptick in blood glucose switches on brain enzymes that speed adenosine breakdown— plus, sudden exposure to cold prompts the release of mood-lifting beta brain waves.
Sleep deep with this scent.
As bedtime nears, the brain’s production of sleep-inducing theta waves slowly rises. But inhaling the earthy aroma of 100 percent vetiver essential oil for 15 minutes before lights-out makes that surge more pronounced, helping you sleep 25 percent more soundly, according to a study in the journal Natural Product Research. That’s because organic compounds in the Indian grass extract calm the brain’s anxiety center — a key step in prompting the brain to form theta waves. To get the perks, place two to four drops of vetiver oil on a tissue and put it on your nightstand while you read.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.