Your brain is your central operating system. It controls your reasoning, planning, communication, speech, decision-making, problem-solving, movement, emotions, senses, recognition and memory. It’s who you are! So, to help you keep your noggin in tip-top shape, Paula Neuman, neuropsychologist, Parkview Hospital Randallia, and Alisha Otis, wellness coach, Parkview Center for Healthy Living, have put together a creative list of brain-boosting exercises.
Focus on the complex and novel. “Learning new information and skills across your lifespan can expand and keep your brain sharp,” says Paula. Never played a musical instrument? Pick up a guitar, or take piano lessons. Always wanted to learn a new language? Try Spanish, or another language from your family’s heritage. You can even solve a challenging puzzle or take a new route home from work.
Do strength training. You can bulk up your brain by hitting the weight room or doing body-weight exercises at home. In fact, research suggests strength straining not only builds strong muscles and bones, but it also boosts brainpower. “That’s because weight-bearing exercises can increase levels of proteins that control the growth of nerve cells,” explains Paula.
Or, just get moving. “Strength-training is an important part to any well-balance workout plan,” says Alisha. “Simply taking a walk, going for a jog or moving around can boost brain function,” adds Paula. Research shows adults’ brain-processing speed improved after 30 minutes of moderate exercise. So, avoid the armchair, and get moving.
Dance. Busting a move on the dance floor – or kitchen floor – involves mental challenges like coordination, planning and muscle memory. “These mental exercises can protect against cognitive decline,” explains Paula. So, you have the green light to do the Macarena or Electric Slide this weekend with friends and family.
Get a good night’s sleep. “Quality, restful sleep can improve your mental well-being, strengthen your immune system, reduce stress and anxiety, manage weight – the list goes on!” explains Alisha. Paula also says, “Good sleep can also help boost learning, concentration and memory, as well. Adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours each night, teenagers 8 to 10 hours, children 9 to 14 hours and babies 12 to 17 hours.”
Appreciate the silence. Society is evolving at an increasing rate, leaving us with little time to relax and process. But our brains require time to process information more deeply so we can gain greater benefits from our experiences. Take time out of your day to pause and take a break. Alisha and Paula agree that even a 5-minute meditation will help.
Eat leafy greens. Who knew Popeye was a genius? “Spinach and other leafy green vegetables are filled with vitamins and minerals that can help fight dementia,” says Paula. “Plus, antioxidants in these lean greens offer powerful brain protection from conditions like stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.”
Eat a well-balanced diet. “In addition to leafy greens, eating fruits and vegetables, foods packed with omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbohydrates and nuts and seeds can improve your overall health, boost your mood and increase your brainpower,” agree Alisha and Paula. Sounds like the positive effects of a well-balanced diet are endless! Parkview has some healthy recipes to get you started.
Socialize and have fun. “Friends and family provide opportunities to share experiences, learn something new, express emotions and overcome challenges, all of which are important to continued brain health,” explains Paula. So, grab your favorite people and get together on a regular basis. You’ll strengthen your community and brainpower at the same time.