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Fitness For Our Brain

Our concerns about health usually are to look and feel good. But are we considering our brain when we think about being fit? Have you exercise your brain today? Do you even know how to exercise your brain?

Researchers are trying to understand how exercise can benefit our brains; and if exercise has an effect on brain functionality and longevity. We must keep in mind that our brains are composed of different areas or "mental muscles," and we can strengthen them through mental and physical exercises. We still have long way to go, but we can try to avoid dementia and Alzheimer by practicing some basic exercises.

What can deteriorate our Brains?

Repetitive and routine-driven life, lacking in novelty and stimulation. We have brains to be able to learn and to adapt to new environments, and we cannot afford to allow our brains to stay in one place.

Anxiety and stress, that are guaranteed to distract us from our main goals and waste our limited mental energies. What do we have to do to get ourselves out of it?

Now that we know what helps to deteriorate the brain, we can start taking on new challenges that are not too difficult, and learn how to manage stress to prevent anxiety from kicking-in.

Ways to exercise the Brain:

  1. Learn something new all the time. If you read something in a magazine, be an active reader, and make connections with things that you already know, and repeat what you learned in your own words. The fact that you are looking for connections between things helps the memory because it is easier to recall things when there are more connections. In general we should try something different every day, no matter how little. Take a different route to work, talk to a different person, or ask an unexpected question. Consider every day as a learning opportunity.
  2. Do some exercise for stress management (stress can reduce both the creation of new neurons and their lifetime): 3-minute visualization, combining deep and regular breathings with visualizing beautiful landscapes or remembering successful times in our past.
  3. Do some exercise for short-term memory (mental exercise is important because it helps determine how new neurons are used-and how long they survive): try a series subtracting 5 from 150 (150 145 140 135...), and then try other numbers that look more complicated, such as 7. Or a series involving multiplication (2,3 4,6 6,9 8,12...) or exponential series (3 9 27 81 243...) the intention is not to become a math genius, but simply to exercise our short-term memory. But be careful with games that proclaim to be good for the brain. Games such as crossword, sudoku or knitting are good for the brain, but once you learn them, they also become routine.
  4. Do some physical exercise because what's good for our body is also good for our brain. It increases blood flow to our whole body, including our brains. Exercise seems to slow the loss of brain tissue that typically begins in our 40s. To help even more the stimulation of our brains, the best exercises for our brain are the ones that you can multitask while practicing them. So, walking and talking to a friend; running and listening to music; or doing any exercise while thinking about something completely different than the exercise is the best. It is important to take care of our brains; otherwise our fit bodies will have no meaning in our lives in the long run.

Quotes from Neuroscientists:

"Exercising our brains systematically ways is as important as exercising our bodies. In my experience, 'Use it or lose it' should really be 'Use it and get more of it'" - Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, neuropsychologist, clinical professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, and disciple of the great neuropsychologist Alexander Luria.

"Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives, through education, occupation and leisure activities, have reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's symptoms. Studies suggest that they have 35-40% less risk of manifesting the disease" - Dr. Yaakov Stern, Division Leader of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Sergievsky Center at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York.

"What research has shown is that cognition, or what we call thinking and performance, is really a set of skills that we can train systematically." - Dr. Daniel Gopher, Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Human Factors Engineering at Technion Institute of Science.

Sources: Alvaro Fernandez is the CEO and Co-Founder of Memory Improvements Apr 30, 2007.

Adapted by Editorial Staff, September 2007
Last update, July 2008


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