The mental fitness of your brain is as important as the physical fitness of your body. Research shows that regular physical and mental exercise improves brain health, slowing cognitive decline and reducing stress that can lead to chronic disease. Here are a few ways to exercise your brain and ensure you are fit from head to toe.
Research shows that exercise promotes the growth and prolonged survival of new neurons in the area of the brain responsible for long-term memory (the hippocampus). Strength training may be especially helpful for brain health. A study from the University of British Columbia found that those who took part in strength training with two 60-minute sessions per week for six months had a better memory than those who walked for exercise or engaged in balance and flexibility exercises. There was a 17 percent increase in the area of the brain responsible for planning and organizing and a 92 percent increase in associative memory, which allows you to put a face to a name when you meet a person.
Mental Games and New Skills
Everything from challenging your brain with puzzles and trivia to learning a new skill leads to a healthier mind. Research shows that when you develop new skills, such as learning a language, it may slow cognitive decline, which is associated with memory loss and forgetfulness. Challenging yourself with mental games may improve your concentration as well as improve memory, language skills, and your ability to quickly shift your mind from task to task. Simply reading more has also been found to increase concentration, focus, and memory.
Meditation and Relaxation
Research links regular meditation and relaxation exercises to positive, long-term changes in the brain. Meditation has been found to change the connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain. The amygdala is the area of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response. Weakening these connections may lead to a more thoughtful response to stress as well as a reduction in overall stress and the inflammation linked to chronic disease. Research shows that regular meditation promotes growth in the area of the brain that is responsible for memory and language. It may also help you process information and make decisions more efficiently.