What is Brain Fitness?
We have known for years that physical exercise is necessary to develop and maintain a healthy body. What is not as widely known is that the brain needs nurturing as well. A new body of research has shown that there are things we can do to help maintain and improve our brain fitness. These activities can be grouped into three areas: brain exercise , stress reduction, and physical exercise.
Brain Exercise (Use It or Lose It)
A wide range of research since the 1990s shows that people who regularly challenge and stimulate their brains improve their mental functioning and maintain more of their abilities into old age. Scientists have recently discovered that exercising the brain can literally generate new brain cells (neurons) and strengthen their connections. This process is called “neurogenesis. " Brain stimulation has also been shown to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's symptoms. Games, puzzles, learning a new language, and reading have all good ways to exercise your brain. Computer programs and devices are also available that are specifically designed to stimulate the brain in more direct, targeted ways.
Prolonged exposure to chronic stress can damage the brain and inhibit the formation of new brain cells. There are a variety of things you can do to reduce chronic stress. Exercise can make you feel more relaxed and often reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise also promotes arousal and relaxation and improves the quality of sleep. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, biofeedback, and yoga have been shown to lower blood pressure, slow respiration, slow metabolism, and release muscle tension. The attitudes you hold about yourself can also influence the amount of chronic stress you experience. In general, believing that you are empowered and in control of your environment reduces stress. Spending time with friends, family, and even pets can help foster trust, support, and relaxation. There are also computer programs and other products that are designed to reduce stress in more targeted ways.
Exercising is another great way to improve your brain fitness. Aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise improves blood flow to the brain, helps the body detoxify, and can help reduce stress and depression. In order for an exercise to be considered “aerobic, " it needs to elevate your heart rate to 60 to 85 percent of its maximum rate. Good examples of cardiovascular activities are walking, running, swimming, biking, aerobic dance, step aerobics, kick boxing, rowing, and jumping rope. Exercise has a direct effect on nerve cells. After exercise more neurotrophins are produced by the brain, which are compounds that increase the formation of new nerve cells and enhance their connectivity. They also make the neurons we have more resistant to the aging process. Aerobic exercise has numerous other health benefits such as burning body fat, strengthening your heart and lungs, and improving muscle tone.
Jonas Certa is a brain fitness enthusiast who has been researching brain fitness at http://www.mindera.com . Sharpen up your mind with MindEra's puzzles, games, and brain fitness products.