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Everyone is probably aware by now that doing physical exercises and workouts help keep the body functioning properly, allowing us to keep fit and healthy. But did you know that the brain needs exercise as well? The old saying “use it or lose it” applies not only to the physical health of a person, but also to the cognitive health.
Regular physical exercise helps our bodies to be in shape, reducing the risk of developing bone, joint, and other diseases related to aging. Similar to the body, the brain can also benefit greatly from an exercise. We don’t mean this literally in the form of shaking the head to jiggle those brains.
Physical exercise can help the brain too as the body releases happy chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine. Balance exercises can help prevent falls, stretching exercises can help in flexibility, strength exercises can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and more. Just as physical exercise can help the body and brain, targeted brain exercise can help the cognitive function of the brain.
Due to aging, our brains are susceptible to neurological damage and other factors, resulting in memory loss, dementia, cognitive impairment, and others. Age-related illnesses that come up due to a lack of a healthy lifestyle can increase the risk of mind-related diseases and even shorten life expectancy.
According to a study, adults aged 60 and up were found to have no cognitive impairment nor dementia as they lead healthy lifestyle habits. Aside from eating a well-balanced diet that’s low in fat, low in cholesterol, and high in antioxidants, regularly exercising can also aid brain health by protecting vascular health.
In addition to following healthy lifestyle habits, doing brain exercises can help a lot in keeping the brain healthy and your memory sharp. This is where brain games and other brain training exercises come in. You don’t even have to worry about spending a dime on equipment or anything for brain exercises! There are a vast number of activities, games, apps, and mental workouts easily available to exercise your brain. In fact, some of these brain teasers are activities that you do on the daily.
In this article, we’re listing out several brain exercises that you can do to keep your mind sharp, reduce memory loss, reduce your stress, strengthen the brain function, and help improve your brain power.
What are Brain Training Exercises?
Brain exercises are activities that people can do to engage the brain. These exercises improve brain function, enhance memory, improve cognition, heighten processing speed, and stimulate creativity. Doing brain exercises can also aid in increasing your attention, concentration, and focus.
Exercising the brain can help protect it from age-related degeneration. It’s almost similar to going to the gym to physically exercise using machines. For brain training, you do various activities with the help of games, apps, books, and a host of other materials that can stimulate the mind.
Best Brain Training Exercises that You Can Do
Scientists recommend sticking to brain training that involves real-world activities. These exercises that strengthen the brain function should be able to offer novelty and challenge. Aside from that, simple brain training games such as word games, numbers, and puzzles are great ways to improve brain power. Here are some brain exercises that you can do whenever, wherever!
Complete Jigsaw Puzzles
Completing a jigsaw puzzle can help benefit the brain as it can activate a host of cognitive functions. Puzzles can aid in activating perception, mental rotation, working memory, and reasoning. Doing puzzles regularly may be able to aid the brain against the effects of aging.
Practice Crossword Puzzles
Crosswords are a popular activity that may help stimulate the brain. It may help delay memory decline, especially in people with preclinical dementia.
Make a List to Memorize
An activity you can do to improve memory function and testing your ability to recall is to make a list and memorize it. This could be anything – grocery list, things to do, a list of names, anything. You can make the list as challenging as possible to maximize mental stimulation.
Use Your Non-Dominant Hand
According to studies, using the non-dominant hand can strengthen the mind. This is because using the opposite hand can be challenging, therefore it can be a great way to increase brain activity. You can switch hands when eating dinner, writing, or brushing your teeth. It may be difficult, but that’s exactly the point.
This brain exercise has been in use for thousands of years, greatly aiding a person’s mental health. Meditation has a ton of benefits that range from stress reduction, keeping a person calm and collected, as well as improving attention, focus, and empathy. There are also suggestions that meditation may increase the capacity of a working memory.
Learn a New Language
The listening and hearing involved in learning a foreign language stimulates the brain. Additionally, having a rich vocabulary has been linked to a study that reduces the risk of a cognitive decline. Learning a new language allows you to become bilingual or even multilingual, and this helps increase the connectivity between the different areas of the brain, delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of dementia.
Listen to Music or Learn a Musical Instrument
It’s been found that a person who enjoys listening to music engages the different parts of the brain, leading researchers to propose that it may lead to improving cognitive function as well as overall health and well-being. Additionally, learning an instrument exercises the parts of the brain that are responsible for coordination.
Play Memory Games
Playing memory card games can test a person’s short-term memory and ability to remember patterns. Memory training games are simple enough and are a fun way to engage areas of the brain that are connected to recognition and recall.
Draw a Map from Memory
The brain can be challenged by drawing a map of your town, the neighborhood, and such from memory. This activity allows you to visualize your surroundings, of even less familiar areas from memory.
Researchers have found that there is a connection between regularly playing checkers and having a larger brain volume. Checkers and other cognitive-stimulating activities showed improved markers of cognitive health in people who are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Do Math Mentally
Dealing with numbers can be difficult to do mentally, but this exercise does help a lot in stimulating brain activity. Sure, using a calculator, a computer, or a pen and paper makes math easier. But then, you wouldn’t get much of a brain exercise by doing that. Try adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying numbers in your head to help improve the mind. For an additional challenge, try pairing up this brain exercise with a physical exercise — walk, jog, or even run while doing arithmetics in your head.
Learn New Hobbies
Researchers have found that older adults learning new and cognitively-demanding skills experienced memory improvements. This is because learning new skills engages in the brain in different ways and helps improve function, concentration, and attention. Taking up new hobbies such as knitting, drawing, painting, quilting, and the like also help in improving abilities such as hand to eye coordination.
Number puzzles such as Sudoku are fun ways to challenge and exercise the brain. In a 2019 study, it was found that adults aged between 50 to 93 years old who practiced number puzzles tended to have better cognitive function.
Getting your feet moving is a great exercise not just in a physical manner, but for the brain as well. According to the data by the CDC, dancing has beneficial effects on the aspects of brain health such as memory, planning, and organization. You’ll also find yourself gaining new found abilities on the dance floor.
Play Video Games
Video games are actually good and beneficial for a lot of things! Aside from being a source of entertainment and a way to relax, some types of video gaming can be a form of brain exercise. Action games and strategy games can improve brain health by training a person’s attention, problem-solving skills, and cognitive flexibility.
According to a 2008 data, visualization can help people organize information and make appropriate decisions. Visualization involves one to form a mental image which represents information. These mental images can be in the form of pictures or animated scenes. They’re pretty much your own movies made in your mind.
People can easily practice visualization daily by imagining going to one place from another, imagining what to buy in the grocery or at the mall, etc. It’s recommended to imagine the scenes as vividly and detailed as possible.
This isn’t necessarily an active exercise however, it is one that is crucial for the brain and our overall health. According to data, most adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. However, a lot of people get less sleep than the required amount. It’s been proven that sufficient sleep can aid the mind by boosting memory recall, reducing mental fatigue, and even regulating metabolism.
We’ve provided you several ways to keep the brain active. Along with doing physical exercises, eating a well-balanced diet, and following a healthy lifestyle, it’s also important to keep the brain active and engaged by doing mind exercises. While most people will likely differ in which brain exercise they find enjoyable; some people might like doing math in their head, others might not. However, there’s no doubt that any activity chosen can help in training and improving the brain overall. Try a range of activities first and then stick to one that gives you maximum enjoyment.