We lift weights to get stronger, we go to school to get more educated and we follow a diet to be healthier. We spend a lot of time attempting to improve our lives and who we are, but we never really think about our brain. Is our brain being challenged? Are we thinking in new ways? Is it growing and making new connections? All of these are important for not only creating a more efficient brain, but also for preserving mental performance as we age. Below are four of the most prominent components to maintaining and developing a healthy brain.
When you exercise, blood flow to your brain increases. This process creates new connections between brain cells and increases development of new brain cells. While exercise via strength training is beneficial from a coordination and mental stress standpoint, recent studies are saying cardio is the most beneficial for brain health. When you perform an exercise that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time, that is when you’ll get the most increase in blood flow. This is why exercise, and especially cardio, is something you should incorporate into your daily routine to develop and maintain a sharp mind. Whether you prefer cycling, running or rowing, try to add 20-30 minutes of cardio into your workouts around five to six times per week.
Social interaction stimulates many parts of the brain. When you are social, your brain is forced to be engaged not only by listening, but absorbing new information and developing intelligent responses. Also, like with many aspects of life, variety in your social life can be even more beneficial. When you engage with people from different backgrounds, industries or age groups, it forces you to hear other perspectives. It opens your mind to new ways of thinking and can increase brain stimulation. All of this has been shown to increase memory, lower the risk of dementia and increase life span.
Putting yourself in unique situations causes your brain to think in ways it usually doesn’t. And when your brain is experiencing something new, it is stimulating and great for neurological plasticity (the brain’s ability to grow and make new connections throughout life). Some examples of mental stimulation include eating with your non-dominant hand, getting dressed with your eyes closed, studying a new language or learning an instrument. Any of these activities will be very beneficial for brain adaptation and brain damage resistance.
What may seem like a recent fad, brain training has proven itself to be quite beneficial for increasing reaction times, attention spans, mental flexibility and problem solving ability. This can be achieved by playing games. While traditional games like puzzles or chess can be beneficial, they don’t target as many aspects of brain health as new apps like Lumosity, Elevate and Peak. These apps are the three I’ve found most beneficial as they target numerous brain health aspects like memory, flexibility, problem solving, attention and emotional recognition.
Try picking up one of the examples listed above and incorporating it into your daily habit. You may not notice the results immediately, but when you’re 80 and thinking like you’re 30, you’re going to be glad you did!
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