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The Importance of Exercise for the Brain

Updated on July 30, 2012

Brain Fitness

Brain fitness is the hypothesis that cognitive abilities can be maintained or improved by exercising the brain.

I am a stay at home mother to five amazing children. I go to the gym at least three times a week. I walk with friends as a way of socializing. My idea of stress relief is a good run. However, one of my challenges as stay at home mom is keeping my mind sharp. I give daily attention to my physical fitness or keeping my muscles, heart and lungs healthy.

What about brain fitness? I help my children with their homework. I read books on the beach. I am creating lifetime memories with my children on a daily basis. How can I ensure that I remember their childhood when I am older?

What else could I do to improve my brain fitness?

What exercises and simple tips can I learn to stimulate my brain?

Neurons and Electrochemical Impulses

Neurons and Electrochemical Impulses
Neurons and Electrochemical Impulses | Source

How Does The Brain Work?

In the quest to understand brain fitness, a general understanding of how messages are received and how the brain develops should be reviewed.

The brain is made of approximately 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons. Neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals

Neurons become excited in response to a stimulus, such as touching or seeing an object. Once these neurons are excited by a stimulus, the impulse, or message, moves along that neuron toward the brain where the message is received and processed. The brain can initiate impulses when attempting memory recall or thinking.

With a general understanding of the brain structure and how the brain receives messages via neurons, let's take a look at the brain development.

Pruning Versus Atrophy

Pruning, or the process of removing non essential connections in the brain increasing overall efficiency. This is common in middle childhood and adolescents.

Atrophy is wasting away and can result in decreased brain function. This is common in adults.

Can You Exercise The Brain?

Adults are faced with brain atrophy or wasting away. This can result in decreased brain functions in such areas as memory recall.

Depending on the stage of life, such as a stay at home mom, between employment, retirement or advanced age, it is possible that less mentally taxing exercises are occurring on a regular basis. Synapses could not be subjected to stimulation.

Although the brain is not a muscle but rather a bundle of nerves, it can be exercised. Causing the neurons to respond to stimuli and initiating impulses can result in synapses or connections being maintained. It is critical that synapses are stimulated in order to prevent them from being removed.

How To Stimulate The Brain

Inorder to keep the brain stimulated and prevent atrophy, it is necessary to partake in brain exercises. Depending on your price point, there are multiple options available to develop brain fitness.

On the high end, PositScience, has scientically developed and tested software to aid in brain fitness for around $200. Their research studies have shown that their software has been benefical in improving brain fitness in study participants including but not limited to those with increased age, early onset Alzheimers, and Schizophrenia. They are currently studying the software on participants with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Parkinsons.

Positscience provides free online tests to evaluate your brain's flexibility, memory and speed. The site also provides free game options such as memory games, word games, mind games, brain teasers and brain games for kids to keep your synapes firing.

Lumosity is an industry leader in brain health and performance. Lumosity is conducting the Human Cognition Project, a groundbreaking research effort tasked with maximizing human intelligence.

Like, Positscience, Lumosity offers tailored brain training to exercises to improve memory, attention, flexibility and speed. After signing up, a three day free trial was unlocked. Additionally, a personalized plan was developed estimating an 87% improvement over three months based on my age group. For $5.99/month (based on an annual subscription), I could have full access to Lumosity's brain fitness programs.

Another inexpensive approach might be Happy Neuron. Happy Neuron offer a seven day free trial to improve:

  • attention
  • language
  • memory
  • visual-spatial
  • executive function

Think of it as a free week pass to the brain gym!

Perhaps computers are not your forte. Positscience, also lists thirteen ways to increase brain fitness that do not involve the use of electronics.

Take A Brain Tip Quiz

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Benefits of Brain Fitness

There are benefits to keeping your brain engaged and improving brain fitness.

  • Increased short term and long term memory
  • Ability to complete tasks
  • Faster thinking or processing of information
  • Increased focus and longer attention span
  • Increased visual and auditory functions
  • Increased reaction time
  • Better mood
  • Increased self esteem and confidence

Being Brain Fit

Being brain fit is critical regardless of age or stage of life. Exercise and puzzles help keep my mind sharp. I am planning to do more online puzzle games and apps and try using my non-dominant hand.

I exercise and eat healthy for myself and my family. I want to play with our children during their youth. I want to walk and go for bike rides with my husband when we retire.

I will upgrade my long term health commitment to include staying brain fit. I want to keep my mind sharp.

I want to be able to tell my grandchildren stories and make them understand how amazing their parents were growing up.

© 2012 Karen Lackey


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    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading Sharyn! I enjoyed the research and learned how many simple things you can do to keep your brain sharp. I shared with my parents, too. Maybe they will try a few!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Very interesting and well researched article Karen! I love how you tie in being able to tell your grandchildren stories. And the tips chart - starting with chocolate = awesome. Seriously, the tips are great and something I hope to remember.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading, Laura! I felt my brain smoking a little bit reading about the brain. I think it was waking back up! :) I will definitely make a point of keeping my brain active. I enjoyed learning all the free and inexpensive options available!

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Great ideas in this hub that I will be taking advantage of! Its so true, we make sure to exercise our bodies, but forget about our brains. More and more older people are suffering from dementia than ever before. It is scary! Aside from that, for us stay-at-home moms, it is important to keep our minds sharp for many reasons.