Good news! Your body has built-in, uh, "app" to help you maintain or regain focus, stimulate creativity, and remain engaged in whatever tasks are at the top of your to-do list.
The trick? Take a walk. That's it. Or, climb a hill. Do some pushups. Dance. Twirl a hula hoop. Just make sure you get up, and move around a bit. It's true, and it works. Trainer and consultant Beth Kanter discusses the importance of movement and productivity...namely, that just toughing it out at your desks is one of the worse decisions you can make if you actually wanna get that project done.
I came across a brain scan by Dr. Chuck Hillman from University of Illinois Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory. The lab does research on the relationship between physical fitness and cognitive function. The scan shows a comparison of the brain after sitting vs walking for 20 minutes. There is more red in the walking scan which shows more connections in the brain and more ability to concentrate and that is good for learning. The sitting brain is really disengaged.
Note: you don't have to stop working when you're moving. It's not about taking a break; it's about not sitting still in the same place. You can have walking meetings, walking phone calls, pacing about the office brainstorm sessions, anything...provided that you simply move.
So, for how long can stay stationary? 20 minutes. That's it. Kanter says,
As a trainer, I've seen first hand the power of movement and how it helps wakes up a disengaged audience. I watch participants' body language like a hawk, and every 20 minutes or so I make sure that the delivery mode changes. You begin to pick up a second sense of feeling when people in the room are getting tired and have lost their focus. That's when you can add a brief stretch break, energizer, or incorporate an exercise that requires getting up and moving around. Movement does not distract learners... When participants move, oxygen to the brain increases, thereby enhancing both learning and memory. People can’t be as focused on content when they been sitting longer than 20 minutes.
And with that...I'm going outside. See you in 20 minutes.