Puzzles and games are not the best exercise for your brain. According to plenty of research, physical exercise is the best activity for brain health. It is aerobic activity that benefits the brain not crossword puzzles or sudoku. Any activity that gets you sweating and elevates the heart and breathing rates for an extended period of time has a significant, overwhelmingly beneficial effect on the brain. When it comes to boosting your mood, improving your memory, and protecting your brain from age-related cognitive decline, exercise is as close to a wonder drug as you will get. Aerobic exercise is key for your brain , just as it is for your heart.
Resistance training with free weights, machines or body weight exercises is beneficial in that it allows individuals to improve and maintain muscle mass. Muscle mass burns more calories, even when the body is at rest but maintaining muscle also ensures that strength will be maintained. Strength is important to any older adult who desires to maintain independence in caring for themselves. Activities such as Yoga or Tai Chi are important to maintaining good balance and flexibility. Participating in a stretching program such as these will also help reduce age related mobility decline. All of these activities are great. Everyone of any age should participate in them as often as possible. But it is aerobic activity that will be of most benefit to the brain.
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus. This is the area of the brain involved in memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and toning exercises did not have the same effect on the brain. Aerobic exercise causes the body to create new blood vessels. Blood vessels carry oxygen. New blood vessels mean more pathways for blood to travel throughout the body as it brings oxygen to all areas. In the cardiovascular system this means if one pathway is blocked due to any kind of heart disease the blood will have other pathways to follow and a heart attack can be avoided or the severity lessened. An increased number of blood vessels in the brain means improved oxygen levels to the brain which means decreased risk of stroke and improved brain activity.
Other studies have found that the prefrontal cortex as well as the medial temporal cortex regions of the brain have greater volume in people who exercise aerobically versus those who don’t. These areas of the brain control thinking and memory. Exercise also stimulates the release of growth chemicals in the brain which affect the health, abundance and survival of new brain cells. Exercise improves mood and sleep as well as reducing stress and anxiety. These factors can all play a part in cognitive impairment. If exercise can help, why would you not give it a try?
Researchers say that one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. If you don’t want to be that person, get moving. Walk briskly, cycle, swim aggressively, get moving enough to break a sweat for at least 20 minutes 5-7 times a week. Dancing is also a great way to improve brain health. A style of dance that requires you to learn patterns or moves and is done at a level quick enough to elevate the heart rate is the best choice. Find a Zumba or line dancing class to attend. Not only will you have a ton of fun you will also be taking care of your brain.