The brain is involved in everything we do, and like any other part of the body, we can strengthen it through exercise. The strength of your memory and ability to zero in on tasks depends on the health and vitality of your brain. What’s most remarkable, if not miraculous, is that our brain has a staggering capacity to adapt and change—even as we grow old. The ability of the brain to form and reorganize nerve connections in response to activities that cause us to learn, memorize, or experience new things is neuroplasticity.
In this article, we’ll review different activities that will stimulate your brain and form new nerve pathways, as well as strengthen existing connections to expand your memory and sharpen your focus.
The brain continues to learn new skills and information throughout life and benefits from frequent intellectual stimulation. There are many options available, from brain games to reading books.
Brain games – By playing word games like Sudoku or crossword puzzles, stimulating your brain can be serious fun. Many board games that require memorization or strategy are also great for exercising your brain. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Make it a habit – Get into a daily habit of learning an unfamiliar word or fact. You can do this by looking up words as you read anything from biographies to news that discuss topics you want to know more about.
Get a new hobby – This can help you master a new skill or subject. You can also start on that do-it-yourself project you’ve been thinking about.
Un-stimulate – Chronic stress is the wrong brain stimulation. Meditation has shown to reduce stress and body inflammation by soothing the vagus nerve, an important nerve which controls the body’s immune response.
Besides brain stimulation, research has shown that overall physical health is linked to brain health. Regular exercise aids in the maintenance of a healthy weight range. In addition, it maintains stable blood-sugar regulation and normal cholesterol levels. Most importantly, it optimizes blood flow throughout the body and the brain, supporting the growth of new brain cells.
The benefits of physical health stem not only from regular exercise but also from other good health practices. Support your brain’s health by:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes daily to relieve stress
- Get between seven to eight hours of sleep each night
- Refrain from using tobacco
- See your MaxLiving Chiropractor regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
Relationships with family and friends are key factors in a person’s happiness. Regular social interaction promotes the formation of new brain cells and aids in brain repair. One study revealed that men and women who had the most social interaction had less than half the rate of memory loss as those who were the least socially involved. By visiting friends and family and being involved in community activities, you will protect brain health.
Social brain boosters:
- Spend time with your family and friends regularly and make them a priority
- Volunteer for an organization which surrounds a cause which you are passionate about
- Join clubs and become involved in community or spiritual activities that resonate with you
Finally, research shows that inactivity due to retirement leads to a condition called mild cognitive decline (MCI). This means your brain is performing as if you were much older than your actual age. To avoid this disorder, work for as long as you can and for as long as you feel motivated to do so.
Fuel Your Brain
As we’ve learned, brain exercises can increase the strength of your brain. Now, let’s discuss how to use nutrition to turn that exercise into noticeable changes.
The primary macronutrients in your diet needed to support brain structure and function are complete proteins and healthy fats. Protein is the second largest matter in the brain, second only to water, so it is important to nourish your brain with protein-rich foods. Proteins help neurons within the brain communicate with each other through neurotransmitters that are made from amino acids.
Fats from foods and supplements, including long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for brain structure. The body, however, cannot synthesize them. Instead, these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids come from short-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in the diet. Brain function relies on dietary intake of DHA, a key omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is a building block of the brain and is important to brain development and health. In addition, it is also important in development of the brain, as it is a key component of breast milk.
A diet rich in DHA may even protect against certain neurological disorders. Aim for at least 160 mg of DHA per day to maintain brain health. You can find DHA in fatty fish like salmon, full fat yogurt, and supplements like MaxLiving Optimal Omega.
Health experts agree that a healthy diet should include fruits such as blueberries, vegetables with antioxidants, and other natural healing compounds that come from herbs, tea, and wine. That’s because they contain potent amounts of polyphenols which have natural antioxidant properties. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress in the body, which causes cells to age prematurely.
About the Author
Zach Zovath graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Education from the University of Central Florida. He continued on to receive his Master’s degree from the College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida. He is a master level personal trainer, coach, and health consultant. In addition, his specializations include corrective exercise, performance enhancement, prenatal/postpartum core stability, and exercise therapy. As a result of his education and experience in the health and fitness industry, he has developed fast and effective exercise programs for health care facilities.