- Aging & Longevity
Brain Exercises to Keep your Mind Sharp
You have probably already heard that brain exercises help to keep the mind sharp as you age, but no matter what your age, you begin to take some positive steps. The wonderful thing about exercising the brain is that anyone can do it. The principle that applies to muscles also applies to the brain: Use it or lose it.
Algebra is Brain Exercise
I first became interested in the concept behind exercising the brain when my daughter was struggling with algebra. “Give me one good reason I have to learn algebra! Just one!”
She had no plans to become a scientist, mathematician, builder, or go into any other technical career and to be truthful, I’ve never used complex algebra for any real world application.
I researched it and found a reason. Apparently, the practice of deciding on a formula for a given problem and going through the steps actually builds new connections in the brain and helps you learn new concepts throughout life. (See Reference 1)
“Learn it because it makes your brain grow and will help you learn in the future”.
Of course she wasn’t as excited about it as I was, but I offered the same explanation to my son. No matter how much they complained, at least they could not complain that it was pointless.
Admittedly, I have been known to drive them crazy when I stop and ask questions about situations, events and concepts. Instilling empathy and reason has always been important to me. I didn’t think of it as brain exercise, I just wanted them to expand their thinking (the same thing, but in different terms). According to the men who coined the term “neurobics”, I was blessing them with a mental workout. Who knew?
Neurobics – Exercises for the Brain
The principles behind Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin’s book “Keep Your Brain Alive” are involved in using the senses differently, focused attention, and changing the normal routine, even for a short period of time. Some of the ideas may seem silly, but it is easy to see how doing them challenges the mind. This book goes beyond the typical “do crosswords or other types of puzzles” recommendation.
Five Neurobic Exercises: A Handful of Ideas From the Book
- Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand.
- Turn off the lights in your house at night and navigate your way through using your memory, sense of touch, sound, and even smell.
- Respond to a situation or challenge differently than normal.
- Visit places you have never been before.
- Mute the television and make up your own dialogue. Not only does this exercise the brain, it may even exercise your funny bone.
Physical Exercise and the Brain
For several years now, I have heard that physical exercise can ease stress and alleviate the symptoms of depression. The latest research shows that mood is not the only change that takes place in the mind when a person exercises. Working out stimulates the brain as well as the body. It makes sense when you recognize the mind and body connection.
According to a study done by the University of California in San Francisco, exercising greatly decreases cognitive decline. (See Reference 2)
For best results, exercise every day and challenge yourself to do more each time.
Meditation is Good Brain Exercise
Meditation is not easy. In fact, the very act of suppressing thought and concentrating on one particular thing such as breathing, a mantra, or an object demands that the meditator take complete control of his or her brain.
Buddhist monks took part in a long term study involving meditation, brain wave measurements, and images of the brain. Their insistence that meditation helps increase cognitive functioning was confirmed through scientific means. (See Reference 3)
Those who make meditation a part of their daily routine will experience an increase in cognitive function over the long term.
If you have never meditated or have experienced difficulty that caused you to give up on the practice, don’t let the challenge keep you down. Start slow. Even if you are able to hold your concentration for a minute, you have already accomplished something. Practice and challenge yourself to meditate longer each and every day.
Brain Exercises - Start Today
Brain exercises can help keep the mind sharp through the senior years, but no matter your age, there is no time like the present to begin exercising the brain.
Use it or lose it.
I’m off to meditate.
Do you meditate?
Website References for Brain Exercise
- The benefits of learning algebra
Why learn high school algebra? A discussion of the benefits of learning algebra and, therefore, critical thinking.
- The Human Brain - Exercise
Physical exercise impacts cognitive functioning
- Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds (washingtonpost.com)
- stock.xchng - prove it (stock photo by ugaldew)
Source for image - "Algebra builds the brain"