Most people expect their brains to age as their bodies do, becoming less functional the older they get. But the good news is you can train it to stay in shape. Just like any other muscle in your body, if you exercise your brain it will stay strong. This can be helpful in preventing, delaying, and/or slowing dementia, depending on when you start.
How does one exercise the brain?
Challenging your brain with puzzles and techniques like those listed on the side of this page have been proven to help improve cognitive ability. You can focus your training to improve retention, processing speed, attention span, or multi-tasking. Using your brain in different ways challenges it to make new connections between synapses. The more connections you have, the more “brain plasticity” you have. This means you have more of a reserve of brain function. Imagine a savings account for brain function. For example, if you were to get Alzheimer’s disease, you would most likely function better for longer if you started out with more of a wealth of brain power. If you start with low brain plasticity, dementia can have a quicker, more significant impact on your functionality. The best ways to increase this brain plasticity is by learning new things, solving logic puzzles, or doing math problems.
In addition to learning, it is also important to get plenty of physical exercise. Daily exercise benefits not only your heart and muscles, but also your brain. Research studies show that those who keep active physically have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. The second most common dementia is vascular dementia, which is related to the circulatory system. So what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. By increasing circulation and blood flow to the brain, exercise keeps your brain oxygenated and healthy. Often aging adults have fallen into a sedentary lifestyle, so the best way to get them back into exercise is with physical therapy. Physical therapy prescribed by a physician can gradually increase a person’s activity level safely and help them gain their strength back over time, drastically improving their quality of life both physically and mentally.
These are some of our favorite ways to stay active, what do you do?
Training your brain for as little as 30 minutes 3 times a week can improve your cognitive abilities.
A study on Posit Science’s Brain Fitness program conducted by Mayo Clinic and the University of Southern California showed that people can make significant increases in memory function and brain processing speed by using scientifically designed cognitive training. On average, participants in the Posit Science Brain Fitness program showed a 131% increase in auditory processing speed and an improvement in memory by almost 10 years.