You know it’s important to keep your body physically fit — use it or lose it as the saying goes. The same applies to your brain. But is there an exercise program to keep you mentally fit? Sure there is.
There are a host of mentally stimulating brain games to keep your mind limber. These are not marketing ploys. A study by the National Institute on Aging indicates mental exercises help the aging brain to focus, increase attention span, memory, and language skills.
How do you keep your mind young? The aging process brings a lot of changes to your body. You start to get wrinkles, more likely than not gain weight, and your muscles lose their strength. Yet, perhaps the most disturbing thing about aging is that your mind starts to slow down too. While people used to just take this as a consequence of getting older, today we don’t have to accept mental decline as inevitable because there are many things you can do to keep your mind young.
Of course the major building block to a healthy brain is diet. In order to keep your brain in top shape a diet rich in antioxidants is necessary to to fight off the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants will also help increase blood flow to the brain and help the body make more acetylcholine which is an important neurotransmitter that aids in mental function.
Aside from diet, we also need to exercise our brains to keep them quick and and flexible. Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways based on new experiences. In other words, as we learn and acquire skills, the brain changes in response to those experiences.
You can improve the plasticity of your brain by doing enjoyable mental activities — playhing games in other words. Mental games that require memory, quick reaction time, problem solving, and spatial reasoning will help improve your memory and your attention span.
It has been shown that stress can be a major contributor to mental decline and one of the best ways to reduce stress is physical exercise. Surprisingly, physical exercise is also good for the brain. A study done in 2002 by Carl Cotman and Nicole Bertchtold showed physical exercise triggers production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is connected to the brain’s ability to grow and adapt.
If you feel your self beginning to slow down mentally, don’t accept it as par for the course. What was normal and acceptable a generation ago is, in many cases, completely avoidable today. A brain healthy lifestyle includes social engagement, physical exercise, a good diet, and most importantly lots of mentally stimulating games.