Getting older is a conundrum! At least to some of us. We look around and we see healthy active 90 year olds with sharp minds. Then we turn our head and see 60 year olds with early signs of dementia and numerous bodily health concerns. And then there is everyone else somewhere on the scale of those opposites. For years, we have known the importance of exercise and how it impacts our health and agility. Exercise increases your heart rate which pumps more oxygen into your body which releases a whole variety of good hormones that make our body healthier. The good news is, those same good hormones from oxygen increase go to your brain as well. And that stimulates the growth of new brain cells. And seriously, there is no conundrum whether new brain cells are good. So exercise! But let’s take a minute to explore the strategies for achieving this worthy goal.
- Fundamentally, anything that is good for your heart is good for your brain. Most of us have heard of the “runners high” that is experienced when someone pushes past their limit. The same thing is true for your brain. Playing word and math puzzles stimulate your brain and do indeed keep you more alert and brain smart.
- Turn exercise into a game. There is indeed a direct correlation between physical and mental health. It has been proven that cycling is one of the best exercises for brain strengthening. If you can’t get out and bike or get on a stationary cycle, get a set of working pedals that sit on the floor. You can sit in your chair and watch TV while you pedal away. Or better yet, you can peddle and do a puzzle.
- Try a game called “7 WORDS”! This is both a verbal and creative challenge. The object is to write a short story that uses only …. You guessed it, 7 words. It is harder than you think but also kind of fun. Plus, the stories can be fun to share with others.
- Use all the non-dominant parts of your body. Write that 7 Word sentence using your non dominant hand. Brush your teeth, comb your hair, eat your lunch with the hand you don’t use for those things on a daily basis. It puts your brain to work and challenges eye-hand coordination - all which improve brain health. And try and repeat the alphabet backwards.
- While you are looking at a magazine, find an advertisement that appeals to you. Study the picture for a few moments and then put the magazine down. Try to write down as many things as you remember from the advertisement such as words, pictures of various items and see how many things you can recall. Then take another look at the picture. THEN … study it one more time and repeat the process a second time. Discover if repetition improved your score.
- Take on a new skill. It can be anything really … art, writing, drawing, learning a new language, or cooking a more complicated meal from a culture that is new to you. Then share that meal with friends, neighbors or family. There is great brain benefit in dialogue with others.
- After all that exercise and brain game fun, it is important to get a good night’s sleep. Research has proven that the brain processes information during the deep sleep we have at night. This is critical for brain health. Find a routine and sleep pattern that works for you. Sweet dreams!
Brain fitness is important as we age and it can be really fun if you make it that way. You will discover that it not only improves your memory but it has other added benefits starting with a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. But it also makes a significant difference in getting things done. It improves your reaction time while driving and when you clumsily tip over that cup of coffee. And it helps you remember and find words that sometimes escape you. Overall, you will discover you are a faster thinker with better memory.