Exercise your brain

The older we get, the more concerned we tend to be about our health. Most people know that physical fitness is important for good health but did you know mental fitness is just as important?

A wide range of research since the 1990s indicates that those who challenge and stimulate their brain on a regular basis improve their mental functioning. L earning something new can create new connections in your brain. New connections improve the overall strength of your brain and allow you to learn and remember more over time.

Mental stimulation improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline. Your brain learns and grows by interacting with the world. Engage your brain by participating in activities such as; reading, playing a musical instrument, painting, doing puzzles and word games, playing card games, performing home repairs, and learning new things through a class or course.

Many people experience a decline in cognitive abilities as they age. Although loss in mental sharpness is a natural part of aging, it is proven to be reversible and preventable. Older adults who regularly engage in pastimes that keep the brain active and stretch the mind may help reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias11; so put your brain to work!

Variety and curiosity are the backbone of mental fitness; to stay fit you have to keep things new and fresh. When something you are doing becomes second nature, it’s time to change it up. Inquisitiveness and exploring the world around you will keep your brain working fast and efficiently. Here are s ome tips for keeping your brain active and helping you practice good mental fitness:

•  Take courses to learn something new.

•  Do games and puzzles such as crosswords puzzles and word games.

•  Read often – books, magazines, newspapers, online articles, etc.

•  Meditate – taking calm, deep breaths.

•  Eat nutritious foods – foods containing omega fatty acids are known to boost intellectual stamina.

•  Be physically active – physical exercise improves cardiovascular health, increasing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

•  Prevent the brain from becoming monotonous – regularly learn new words, perform math functions, use your non-dominant hand, commute via varied routes, etc.

The more active you keep your brain; the less likely it will be to let you down as you age. When you dedicate the time to challenge your brain and become mentally fit you will reap the benefits by, not only, learning something new but by feeling rejuvenated, more alert, and more confident!

Article courtesy of OWL 55+. Check out their website for stimulating learning programs and training courses to improve your intellectual well-being and enriching life experiences. Programs are geared for older, wiser learners.

1 Source: www.alzheimer.ca, July 2010

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Catherine Yeulet