Exercising Your Brain – “Use It or Lose It”

I recently gave a talk to older adults on how you can keep your brain strong and would like to share these tips with everyone. The brain is like a muscle so, like any muscle, you need to exercise it to keep it strong and working properly. While puzzles are great mini-exercises, they are not enough alone to keep you from fighting off dementia. Studies have shown that learning something new and challenging is the most effective exercise. The changes that happen in your brain from this new experience, however, are only effective for 3 weeks. Therefore, you need to constantly be challenging yourself with something new at least once a month. Here are my tips:

  • Learn new and novel things every 3 weeks
    • Try some of these new experiences that are mentally challenging
      • Learn to play an instrument (or new instrument)
      • Learn a new language
      • New hobbies – crochet, sewing, cooking, dancing, sports, games
    • Pushing past the comfort zone stimulates your mind and actually changes you to be more open to new experiences.
  • Daily physical exercise for 30 mins followed by 15 minutes of mental exercise (puzzles, reading, writing, brain-game apps)
  • Additional ways to exercise your brain:
    • Use non-dominant hand: brushing teeth and hair, eating, writing your name, using the computer mouse
    • Tai Chi or yoga
    • Close your eyes while completing a task (when safe)
    • Use a map, not GPS, or create your own map
    • Take a different route to get where you need to go
    • Change your routine
    • Doodle when trying to learn something new
    • Mindful meditation
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts and cold water fish. Avoid processed and sugary foods
  • Sleep is important! Make sure you are getting enough sleep (7-8 hours) to wake feeling refreshed
  • Reduce and control stress
  • Stay engaged in your community

If you need some more personalized support, give the office a call and set up an appointment with myself or another Revolutions doctor. We are happy to guide you to better brain and body health.