1. Why Exercise is Good For Your Brain

    June 24, 2013

    by Christine Hanchett

    We all know that exercise is important for maintaining a healthy body weight and gaining muscle, but did you know that exercise is good for your brain as well?  To be more specific, it is actually cardio exercise that has been shown to be great for the brain.  That is not to say that anaerobic exercise isn’t good for the brain—it’s just that there hasn’t been too many clinical studies to conclude one way or another yet.   But there has been a lot of research into cardiovascular exercise and improved cognition and brain plasticity.  So as to the specific reasons for the cardio exercise being good for the brain, here are the five main benefits:

    Sends More Oxygen to the Brain

      Physical exercise increases breathing and heart rate, sending more blood to your brain. The extra oxygen and glucose you receive from the improved blood circulation is used for enhanced energy production and waste removal. Exercise can actually make cerebral blood vessels grow, even in people of an older age. Walking is one of the best exercises you can do for your brain; you get the increased blood circulation and because it is not as strenuous as running, for instance, you do not get a buildup of oxygen and glucose in your leg muscles.

     

    Stimulates Growth of Neural Connections and Cells

      Exercise aids in the release of hormones, particularly those that aid in the growth and nourishment of new brain cells. New connections are also able to grow between important cortical areas of the brain. The growth of new neural cells (neurogenesis) and new connections between cells allows your brain to have what is called “plasticity.” Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways. These types of changes occur when we learn something new or memorize new information. Research supports the idea that if someone experiences a brain injury, plasticity allows another part of the brain to actually adapt itself to be able to perform the duties of the injured part!

     

    Better Cognition

      Exercise not only makes you look better, it can make you smarter as well! The increased blood flow to your brain from your increased heart rate can improve your memory, learning ability, concentration, executive functioning (planning, organization, the ability to mentally juggle several different tasks at once, etc) and abstract reasoning. To really improve your brain, take some ballroom dance classes; you’ll be getting the brain benefits of exercise and improving your cognition mentally (by having to remember the steps) at the same time!

     

    Reduces Effects of Stress

    When you are stressed, cortisol levels in your brain become higher, leading to slow, scattered thinking, impaired learning, and forgetfulness. High levels of cortisol can increase blood sugar and suppress the immune system. If prolonged, it can lead to muscle wasting (atrophy). Exercising helps to lower your cortisol levels, leading to clearer and faster thinking again.

    Protection Against Diseases

    Studies have shown that physical exercise can have a protective effect on the brain against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The more an individual exercises, the less likely he or she is to develop dementia or lose their mental abilities. Even light or moderate exercisers reduce their risk for mental decline significantly. Risk of stroke is also cut in half for those who spend at least twenty minutes a day exercising. Interestingly, the positive effects of exercise against age-related diseases are shown to be particularly beneficial for women.

    With all of these mental benefits in addition to the obvious physical benefits, why are you still reading this?  Get your butt down to the gym—now!

    Image credit: Bruno Hotz


  2. Brain Health Activities – 5 Tips To Help Keep Your Mind Sharp

    June 8, 2013

    Brain Health Activities

    The same way you go to the gym and work on the fitness of your body through exercises, you can improve the fitness of your brain by regularly doing activities that train your mind. When you train your brain properly you’ll be able to stretch the limit of your mind. When you utilize the right brain activities you’ll eventually start improving your memory, reflexes, creativity, your ability to process information and a lot more. Check out these fitness tips made specifically for your brain.

    Perform Reconstructive Activities

    Reconstructing something like an image or what a person said can help you improve your memory and increase all levels of brain operation. It is considered one of the top brain health activities. Head out to a Zoo or art gallery and get a tour. As you go through the tour make sure you listen to everything the tour guide is telling you. Try to pay attention to every little detail of the tour and once the tour concludes try to remember everything until you reach home.

    Once you are home try to write down everything you remember from the tour on a piece of paper. This simple activity will improve your overall brain function and ability to receive and recollect things easily.

    Another thing you can try to reconstruct in your mind is a certain song that you like. Listen to a song as much as you can until you have memorized it word for word. This will help your mind develop great thinking and remembering skills.

    Reconstruction activities will release beneficial chemicals in your brain like neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a main carrier of thoughts and memory in your brain. Without enough acetylcholine in your brain you won’t be able to focus on anything for too long, and both your storage and memory will suffer.

    One of the best ways to release more acetylcholine into your brain is to perform an activity that requires you to use your eyes. Pick a location somewhere outside like a park or you can even do it inside your home. Now sit down somewhere and look directly in front of you while trying to focus on everything you view. Don’t turn your head or move your eyes, just look straight ahead. Remain in this position for 10 to 15 minutes and then when done take a pen and list everything you saw on this list. This is another effective reconstruction activity that will help reduce memory loss and fight off symptoms of conditions like Alzheimer’s.

    Learn A New Instrument

    Have you ever wanted to learn how to play a certain instrument but you never made it a priority? Well, if you are trying to sharpen up your mind now is a good time to start learning. When you learn how to play an instrument it’ll improve your memory, brain processing, and even help with hearing.

    The reason why learning a new instrument will improve your brain’s ability to remember things is because you have to learn about things like scores and tones when you learn music, which will train your brain to store more information than before.

    Do Your Math

    Most people are intimidated by math while they’re in school and try to avoid this subject as much as possible. However, solving math problems (even simple ones) can help you stimulate your brain.  The key to using simple math problems to improve your brain health is to do them as fast as you can. When you use your brain to solve creative problems quickly your brain will begin operating at a much faster rate and slow down the effects of aging.

    Sudoku

    Sudoku is a logic based puzzle that can improve your brain function dramatically. This activity will mainly help the left side of your brain, which is the logic area. People who frequently play the Sudoku game report that their mind feels sharper and they are more alert. Brain health experts recommend playing games like Sudoku in order to keep your brain operating at a high level when you’re old. You can find Sudoku in most newspapers at least once every week.

    Learn How to Use Your Off Hand

    Believe it or not, but learning to use your secondary hand can have a great effect on your brain. If you are left handed try using your right hand to do simple things, and if you’re right handed try to use your left. Doing this activity as often as you can will help your brain learn a new and more challenging way of doing things.

    This will force your brain to make a positive change. Start with something as simple as brushing your teeth. Learn to brush your teeth everyday with your off hand and eventually your brain will adapt to this change. Continue to learn how to do more challenging tasks with your secondary hand to keep challenging your brain and improving its processing power.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian


  3. How to Keep Active in Your Older Age

    April 3, 2013

    Image Credit: Garrette

    We all know how important it is to stay active while the years pass. No matter how old we get it is the age we feel inside that counts the most. Having said that, it is still crucial to live up to that number as our brain’s functionality is directly related to our body health.  Keeping oneself free and active is one of the key points to staying healthy; so, here are some tips on how to keep active in your older age.

    Do not stop caring for the loved ones!

    Usually, as people get older the roles in the family change and the kids are the ones caring for the elderly. Those around us are the greatest source of energy; they are the ones who we would like to keep active for. Going out with friends and family is one of the primary things that should be done on regular bases in order to keep active while you age. And let’s admit it; it is not such a hard or unpleasant thing to do, is it?

    Well, that was a tip most of us follow without even knowing that it is a great step towards the active elderly hood.  Now let’s go on with more specific ones.

    Nutrition and Diet

    Oh, do not just scroll down through this part and think that diets are not for people of your age. Nowadays, most of us misunderstand the true meaning of the word “diet”; its primary purpose does not have to be losing weight. We are talking about eating healthy right now. Having healthy meals several times a day is something every one of us should have as a habit as it is crucial for the proper function of brain and body equally.

    As for exercising, it is not necessary to go to gym for hours or run tens of kilometers daily; going for a walk few times a week is a great substitute as well.

    Occupy Yourself!

    Retirement is not a reason to sit at home and ponder upon universal problems. Instead think about it positively; you no longer have to go to a job every day and have enough time to follow the hobbies you had back in the childhood. Whether it is painting, singing, crafting, gardening or any other hobby, revitalize it! The world is full of opportunities these days; your chance might be waiting just across the corner; all you have to do is continue striving for it.

    Embrace Your Age!

    Last but not least, have a look at the mirror and think of the ways in which the person looking back is beautiful and embrace it. Ageing does not mean that we no longer have the charm; it is all about how we show it. And after all it is always fun and uplifting to dress up and go out once in a while.

     

    Aid Yourself

    However hard you try, you may still have difficulties with mobility in older age. Having to rely on others is the last thing you want. So implementing mobility aids around the home will make things so much easier in the long run and make you self-sufficient in the years to come. This doesn’t always mean having bulky equipment dotted around the home. It can be simple things like if you are renovating a kitchen, then placing the cooker at eye level will mean better access than it being at floor level as strain on the back and knees will be less.

    If you or someone in your family has trouble getting up and down the stairs, then a stair lift may be the answer to making you or them feel and mobile again. Click here for a full range of stair lifts and home lifts.