We all know that if we want our bodies to function better, we need to exercise. Exercise strengthens different muscle groups, improves heart function, and keeps us in better health. But did you know that the same thing can apply to your brain? This is called “brain fitness”.
Brain fitness is the idea that it’s as important for your brain to get regular exercise as your body. Having a brain fitness regimen can improve your memory and driving, increase your self-confidence, and even help prevent dementia. Read on to learn about how brain fitness can impact your life.
How Does Brain Fitness Work?
With age, parts of the brain can start to atrophy, just like the rest of the body. Your brain operates on neural pathways that it builds as you learn new things.
The reason you know the way back to your house from work without having to think about it is that those neural pathways are well-established.
But as you age, your brain can start to settle into those pathways it knows best. It gets harder to forge new paths, which is why things like your memory can start to decline. Over time, this can lead to things like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative mental diseases.
Practicing brain fitness helps your brain forge new neural pathways. It keeps your brain in practice with learning new things, which makes it easier for you to form new connections.
Take our exercise analogy: if you ran a mile yesterday, it will be much easier to run a mile today than if you haven’t run a mile in five years.
Prevent Degenerative Mental Disorders
Because brain fitness helps you make new connections, it can help delay the onset of degenerative mental disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
With Alzheimer’s disease, plaques build up in the brain and limit brain function. Staying mentally sharp can help prevent those plaques from ever building up in the first place.
Keeping your brain engaged doesn’t have to be an overly complicated process. Something as simple as walking a mile a day can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by almost half.
One of the most frustrating things is not being able to remember what you need to. Whether it’s your grocery list or the name of your new co-worker, a lapse in memory can cause problems.
Keeping up with brain fitness can go a long way towards keeping your memory sharp.
You can incorporate memory games into things you already do every day. A few hours before you go to the grocery store, look at your list and try to remember everything on it. Right before you leave, check yourself and see how many of the items you can remember.
We all have times when we can’t quite find the right words to say what we mean. But if you find yourself consistently losing track of conversations or unable to find the right words, that can be a problem.
In fact, it can be a vicious cycle, since there is evidence that a decrease in communication with others can lead to a greater risk of dementia.
Practicing mental fitness can help you communicate better with those around you. Some exercises can help you improve fluency and auditory processing, making it easier for you to find the right words. This auditory processing can also help you keep up with what’s happening in a conversation.
Driving is one of those skills that we don’t often think about losing as we get older. But for as commonplace as it is, driving involves massive coordination of visual processing, reaction time, and muscle memory.
Brain fitness exercises can help improve all of these, keeping you safer on the road.
If you practice visual training exercises, your brain will get better at picking out smaller details more quickly. Other activities can help you improve your reaction time, decreasing the amount of time it takes for the communication to get from your eyes to your brain and from your brain to your foot. These skills can help you see and react to dangers on the road more quickly.
It can be easy to take for granted how much little things like being able to drive and communicate clearly can contribute to our self-worth.
It can be easy to take for granted how much little things like being able to drive and communicate clearly can contribute to our self-worth. We think of those skills as a regular part of being a healthy, functional adult. But when they’re gone, our self-confidence can start to erode with them.
Because brain fitness improves the skills we’ve discussed, it can also help you maintain a positive self-image. You won’t have to worry about feeling like a fool because you can’t find the right words to ask a store clerk for help or because you have to ask your daughter to drive you to church. You’ll be able to stay active, which will, in turn, help keep you healthy.
Examples of Brain Exercises
There are tons of different brain exercises you can engage in to stay mentally sharp. Lots of people have the idea that crosswords are helpful with this, and while they don’t hurt, they aren’t enough on their own.
You want to have several different activities, much like you wouldn’t focus only on doing squats at the gym.
Some studies have shown that knitting and crocheting can help maintain mental health. Doing some form of exercise is an important way to keep your brain active. And you should test your memory every chance you get – challenge yourself to learn a new word every day, memorize grocery lists, recite the names of everyone you’ve talked to that day, etc.
Get on a Brain Fitness Regimen
Practicing brain fitness can be an important key to making sure you live a long and happy life. None of us likes the idea of losing our faculties as we age, but you don’t have to just sit around and worry about it. Instead, pick up that grocery list and get memorizing.
If you’d like to keep your brain in shape, visit us at NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center. We have treatment programs for memory loss, anxiety, and more, as well as neurocognitive and fitness testing. Check out our brain coaching services today.