So you are a regular at hot yoga and Pilates, but what are you doing to exercise your mind? As we age, our bodies deteriorate and our brains are no exception. A regular physical fitness routine helps keep us healthy and agile, and working out our brain can keep us fit, mentally. Here are a few small things you can do on a daily basis to limit the number of “senior moments” in your future.
1. Master the Brain Basics: You can combat cognitive decline and even decrease your susceptibility to dementia by practicing some pretty basic healthy habits. Eat a well balanced diet, get plenty of good sleep and limit smoking and drinking.
2. Learn New Things: While your job may require critical thinking, taking up a hobby or starting a project forces you to practice an unfamiliar skill, which will keep your mind challenged and limber.
3. Write It Down: When you come across new information you want to retain, repeat it out loud or write it down to build stronger memory connections.
4. Read: Maintaining an active reading schedule can help you develop better concentration.
5. Get Physical: The hippocampus in the brain controls our memory system. A study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that a year of aerobics can increase the size of an adult hippocampus up to 2 percent.
6. Pump Up: Weight lifting and other forms of strength training that emphasize technique and form have shown to provide more cognitive challenge and improve long and short-term memory, more than say, running on the treadmill.
7. Rock Out: In Alex Doman’s book Healing at the Speed of Sound, he suggests that listening to simply structured songs or music with repetitive rhythms can help you remain both alert and focused when performing tasks.
8. Laugh Out Loud: When you laugh, your brain is engaged and when you listen to somebody tell a joke or share a humorous story, the parts of the brain that affect creativity are activated.
9. Enjoy Antioxidants: In a study conducted by Tufts University, evidence suggests that enjoying about a cup of blueberries a day may improve short-term memory. Studies also show the antioxidant-rich fruit may improve balance and coordination.
10. Get Your Vitamin E: You may know that vitamin E, found in nuts, brown rice, whole grains and eggs, is good for the skin, but according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, it can also prevent cognitive decline.
11. Perk Up: Consuming a moderate amount of coffee can sharpen your focus and protect your memory. Just be sure to limit it to a cup a day since too much caffeine can lead to cognitive decline.
12. Go Green: Green tea contains strong antioxidants called polyphenols, which can improve alertness and slow your brain’s aging process.
13. Load Up On Omega-3s: Balance your sugar intake with omega-3 fatty acids: In a study conducted by UCLA, rats on high-sugar diets were found to complete mazes slower than those who weren’t on high-sugar diets. However, omega-3 fatty acids protected them from the effects of sugar.
14. Download an App: Chances are you are already using a fitness app to track miles or count calories, so why not download one for mental fitness? Lumosity is an app that uses a set of three timed games to focus on improving your memory, attention span, problem-solving skills and comprehension. The game also keeps track of your progress and shows you how your performance stacks up against others using their app.
15. And Repeat: The Eidetic app relies on a spaced repetition method to train your brain to retain short-term memories or small bits of information, like phone numbers. The app asks for information you want to memorize and then quizzes you on the info, with each quiz strategically spaced out to ensure you retain the info in your long-term memory bank.
Keeping your brain in shape, just like keeping your body in shape, takes time and dedication, but the rewards are worth it. Exercise does a body (and a brain) good.