How Connected is an Exercise with Your Brain?
The brain is involved in almost everything you do, and, like any other part of your body, it needs to be catered for too.
Exercising your brain to improve focus, memory, or daily functionality is a top necessity for many people, especially as they age. That said, folks of all ages can benefit from adding a few simple brain exercises into their daily routine, which shall explore in more detail in this write-up.
The ancient adage “Use it or lose it” applies not just to your physical health but also to your cognitive health. You know that regular physical exercise is vital, especially as you get older and want to lessen your risk of generating diseases and other health complications linked with aging. For example, strength exercises can Assist in building muscle and lower the risk of osteoporosis; balance exercises can also aid in preventing falls; and stretching and flexibility exercises can help maintain range of motion to remain limber, as per the National Institute on Aging.
Similarly, the cognitive reserve of your brain has its ability to withstand neurological injury due to aging and other causes without showing signs of memory loss or slowing, and these can also benefit from exercise, both cognitive and physical. Just the same way weight workouts add lean muscle to our bodies and help us retain more muscle in our later years, researchers have now believed that following a brain-healthy pattern of lifestyle and doing regular, targeted brain exercises can boost our brain’s cognitive reserve.
Researches have highlighted many ways one can hone his/her mental brightness and help one brain stay healthy, regardless of age. Doing some brain exercises to help boost concentration, memory, and focus can make one’s daily tasks quicker and easier to accomplish and keep one’s brain sharp with aging.
Let us take a deeper look into some evidence-based exercises that give the best brain-boosting benefits.
Having Fun with A Jigsaw Puzzle
Whether you put together a 400-piece image of the Eiffel Tower or putting 200 pieces to make Mickey Mouse, or you are working on a jigsaw puzzle is a good way to strengthen your brain.
Research has proved that doing jigsaw puzzles recruits many cognitive abilities and is an effective protective factor for visuospatial cognitive aging. Also, when putting together a jigsaw puzzle, one has to look at various pieces and figure out where each fit within the larger picture. This can be a wonderful way to exercise and challenge your brain.
Taking Care of Your Body to Take Care of Your Mind
If you simply want to take care of your mind, you may need to start by taking good care of your body.
Studies suggest that exercise can make you very smart and protect your brain from any form of shrinkage as it ages. Mice Research in 2013 has even revealed that exercise can boost neurogenesis, or the regeneration of new brain cells, in your brain’s hippocampus.
Another study published in 2013 viewed healthy behaviors in about 2,300 men over 30 years. Researchers viewed the participants’ cognitive abilities and behaviors starting in middle age tracked their progress all through old age.
These healthy characters included not smoking, keeping a healthy BMI, frequent exercising, consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables, and taking a low to moderate level of alcohol.
So if you desire to build a better mind, begin by working on your physical health. Go for some walks, start adding more fresh fruits and vegetables into your food, and try to stop any bad habits like excessive alcohol intake or tobacco use. Some of these might even be more difficult than others, but your brain will surely thank you for years to come.
Test Your Recall
Make a list of things to do, grocery items, or anything else that comes into mind and memorize it. An hour later, see how many of the items you can recall. Make a list as tasking as possible for the best mental stimulation.
Try Your Hand at Cards
When is the last time you played some card games? Researchers who conducted a research study in 2015 on mentally stimulating activities for old folks say a quick card game may lead to greater brain mass in several areas of the brain. The same study also discovered that a game of cards could boost memory and thinking skills.
Try to learn one of these tested-and-confirmed card games:
- Gin rummy
- Crazy eights
- Let The Music Play
Learn to play some musical instruments or join a choir. Studies have shown that learning anything new and complex over a quite long period is beneficial for the aging mind.
Draw A Map of Your Town From Your Memory
While you might have the feeling that you can navigate the streets of your area with your eyes closed, try tasking your brain by actually drawing a map of the town or neighborhood from your memory. Do not cheat! Try to include those major streets, side streets, and main landmarks.
Once you are through, compare your memory map to the real map of the place. How much can you do? Are you surprised that you missed something? If you found the activity too easy, you may try drawing a less familiar area from your memory, such as a map of your entire country or continent, say, the United States or Europe, and try to include every state or country.
You may navigate your way to the supermarket or a friend’s office. It might seem simple and almost automatic when you are handling the wheel of your sports car. However, tasking yourself to remember the layout of the neighborhood, as well as drawing and labeling help, activate a lot of areas of your brain.
Build Your Vocabulary
A good vocabulary has a way of making you sound smarter. But did you perceive that you may also turn a quick vocab exercise into a stimulating brain game?
Research has shown that many more regions of our brains are involved in vocabulary tasks, majorly in areas that are indispensable for visual and auditory processing. To prove this theory, try out this cognitive-boosting exercise:
- Keep a book with you as you read.
- Write down an unfamiliar word, then check up the definition.
- Try to make use of that word five times the following day.
- Learn Something New
This good brain exercise requires a bit of commitment, but it is also the type that just might offer you the most hit for your buck. Learning anything new is a way to set your brain on its toes and continually bring in new challenges.
In a study, researchers made older adults learn a lot of new skills spanning from digital photography to quilting. They then had memory tests and compared the experimental folks to control groups. The folks in the control groups had occupied in activities that were fun but not mentally tasking, like watching movies and listening to the radio.
They also found that these memory improvements were still there when tested again one year later.
Some of the tasks you might want to try include; learning to play a musical instrument (e.g., violin), learning a new language or learning a new skill/sport. Not only will your mind be stretched, but you will also continually learn something new as you continue to expand your skills and becoming more fulfilled.
Learn A Foreign Language
Hearing and listening involved stimulating the brain. What is more, a rich vocabulary has been connected to a lowered risk for cognitive decline, as per a Spanish study that was published in October 2014 in the Annals of Psychology Journal.
Try Using Your Non-Dominant Hand
Up next is yet another interesting brain exercise that a neurobiologist suggests might help “keep one’s mind alive.”
In his book “Keep Your Brain Alive, 83 (eighty-three) Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness), the neurobiologist Lawrence Katz advises the use of your non-dominant hand to strengthen your state of mind. Because using your weaker hand can be very challenging, it can be another great way to increase your brain activity.
You may also try to switch hands while eating dinner or when trying to write something down. It will be very difficult, but that is exactly the actual point.
“Do not just let your memory sleep all through.”