Your brain is just like the rest of the muscles in your body – you use it or you lose it. But I bet when you think of enhancing brain health, you think of mind games and puzzles, don’t you? Over the last 20 years we’ve seen countless studies which indicate that exercise may be the real key to a healthy brain…so put down the brain teaser book and let’s get moving.
Choosing The Right Physical Exercise
Even 20 minutes of exercise can boost your brain’s levels of information processing and memory function.
- Aerobic exercise improves brain function and acts as a first aid kit to damaged brain cells
- Exercising in the morning increases retention of new information throughout the day
- Try something that combines coordination with cardiovascular exercise, like a dance class
- Circuit work outs quickly spike your heart rate and constantly redirect your attention
- Jumping jacks help when you feel mentally exhausted
Other Brain Benefits of Exercising
Regular exercise improves your mood and the ability to sleep, it reduces stress and anxiety, and helps with memory function. The benefits of exercise come from its ability to reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors which affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and the abundance and survival of new cells.
Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are greater in volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.
So why would exercise build brainpower in ways that thinking might not? Well, your brain is just like your other muscles and organs – it’s a tissue, and if its not used enough, it will eventually stop working at maximum capacity. In fact, in your late 20s, it ‘s not uncommon to begin to lose about 1% per year of the volume of the hippocampus, which is a key portion of the brain that handles memory and certain types of learning. Evidence shows that exercise seems to slow, or reverse, the brain’s physical decay, just like it does with our muscles.
Food For Thought?
In addition to exercise, eating the rights foods can also boost brain health because your brain requires nutrients too! The list of foods below will get you off to a great start.
- Nuts – Full of magnesium, which is linked to improvements in both short and long-term memory
- Essential Fatty Acids – Good sources include linseed/flaxseed oil, soya bean and soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil, and oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.
- Blueberries – Research shows that blueberries may help to improve or delay short term memory loss.