New and complex activities are a good exercise for the brain. Get real improvements in memory, concentration, mood and more with these evidence-based brain exercises.
7 Ways to Exercise Your Brain
Many people fear losing thought and memory skills as they get older. But there are steps you can take to help keep your brain alert, taking a quick walk, learning a new language, and solving a puzzle.
Like the rest of the body, the brain changes with age. For example, blood flow may decrease, the brain may shrink and there may be less communication between nerve cells. This can cause even a healthy adult to forget a word or a name and can make multitasking difficult. But the good news is that research shows that the brain remains “plastic” as it ages, which means it can still “adapt to new challenges and tasks,” according to the National Institute on Aging.
1. Improve your overall health.
Good general health is compatible with a healthy brain, according to Harvard Medical School. Make sure to make regular appointments with your doctor for wellness checks. With the help of your doctor, keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check. If you have problems in any of these areas, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or prescribe medications. Reduce alcohol consumption if necessary because excessive drinking is related to cognitive impairment.
Also check your stress levels. Start with some simple yoga exercises that you can do whenever you have a few free minutes. While your body reacts to an emotional disorder in the same way as a physical threat, yoga can help promote awareness, which expands your body’s awareness, thoughts and emotions, as well as the world around it.
2. Exercise your body to build your brain.
The brain decreases in size by about 5% every 10 years after the age of 40. Exercise can help avoid some of these changes. A 2017 review of exercise and brain studies found that aerobic exercise helped maintain volume in the left hippocampus region, a part of the brain that plays a role in long-term memory and space navigation. . In other words, it can help you remember anything from the color of your childhood home to the best path to the hardware store.
3. Embrace brain health with a good sleep.
A 2017 study on sleep and brain published in the journal Neurology linked deep REM sleep deficiency with the development of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. REM sleep, a phase where your eyes move quickly and dream intensely, usually occurs between 70 and 90 minutes after falling asleep. Study participants who developed dementia spent the most time sleeping REM and spent an average of 17% at that stage. In contrast, people who did not develop dementia spent about 20% of their time in REM sleep.
The good news is that you can learn to sleep better. If you have trouble sleeping, start by asking your doctor about common sleep disorders in the elderly. These include sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. If you don’t have a sleep disorder, resting better at night may be as simple as regulating the temperature and lighting in your room, turning off the electronics an hour before bedtime and following a sleep schedule.
4. Tease your brain with fun and games.
Keeping your brain in shape can be a lot of fun if you add puzzles, crosswords and word games to your daily routine.
A study published in 2017 in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology found that a computerized brain game improves memory in patients with a type of mild cognitive impairment. In the study, 42 patients played a “new memory game” on an iPad. In the game, players have earned gold coins by combining geometric shapes with geographic locations. Not only did the memory improve, but the participants enjoyed the game and were motivated to continue playing.
So, the next time you surf the web, take a few minutes to solve an online brain challenge.
5. Focus on food to boost brain strength.
The food you eat also has an impact on mental function and memory. Some studies have linked cognitive impairment with deficiencies in vitamins such as B12, folic acid and vitamin D. It is smart to discuss tests and supplements with your doctor.
Except for any specific deficiencies that need to be addressed, good general nutrition can improve brain health, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Fortunately, foods that are good for cognitive function can also improve heart health. Consider eating more green leafy vegetables and other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, along with berries, cherries and nuts. Also make sure to consume lots of omega-3 fatty acids, the Academy recommends. Good sources include algae and oily fish such as bluefin tuna, herring, salmon and sardines.
6. Grow connections with a new language.
If you’ve ever thought about brushing up on your Spanish in high school, learning to say hello in 50 languages, or learning basic Japanese for an upcoming trip, now can be a good time to start. It turns out that languages not only connect people and cultures, but also connect parts of the brain.
In a study on the language and brain at Penn State University, published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics, scientists scanned the brains of 39 native English speakers who learned Chinese vocabulary. They found that only six weeks of language learning created new connections in the brain. The researchers concluded: “Learning a new language can help achieve more elegant aging.”
7. Build your social network.
Research shows that strong social networks can help keep the brain healthy. Indeed, a study on social networks and brain health found that larger social networks may be associated with a lower risk of dementia. If you already have a united family and a large group of friends, this is excellent news. Otherwise, take small steps to reach and establish connections with others, from greeting a neighbor to an appointment to have lunch with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time.
While it is true that the brain ages, like the rest of the body, following these proactive steps will greatly help keep the mind strong, healthy and sharp.
Let’s start! Test your brain by matching these two unique diamonds.
Answer: Match is 3 and 4.