5 workouts for your brain

Just like your body, your brain needs regular exercise to stay in top form. Here are five simple—and effective—workouts for your brain 
Why is brain fitness so important? It’s obvious that our bodies need exercise to stay happy and healthy—especially as we age. And like with our bodies, our brains can lose some of their pep as we get older. In some cases, however, that brain deterioration becomes a disorder known as dementia—and its most widespread form is Alzheimer’s disease. As the nerve cells in the brain die, people with dementia slowly lose the ability to think and remember, along with the ability to care for themselves. New studies indicate that as many as five to eight percent of Canadians over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, and that it may affect as many as 30-50 percent of people over the age of 85.

But losing cognitive function doesn’t have to be a normal part of aging. The key to healthy aging is in keeping your brain fit and active. While studies indicate that having a parent or a sibling with the disease can increase your chances of developing dementia, it’s not the only factor. Here are five tips that can help keep your brain in top form.

1) Get sweaty

If you needed one more reason to hit the gym, this is it: keeping your body fit is the single most effective way to keep your brain spry for the long-haul. Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain, too. The beauty of regular exercise is that it not only reduces your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, but it can actually slow it down if you already have it.  Choose exercises that are going to make you huff and puff.  An easy test to determine how hard your working is to conduct the talk test.  If you can carry on a normal conversation with your neighbor then you probably aren’t working as hard as you should be.

2) Add some weight to your workout Again, what’s good for the body is great for the brain. Adding a simple weight routine to your workout will not only tone your muscles, but it will keep your thinking cap strong, too.  Try completing a total body workout 3 days per week to optimize muscle definition.

3) Increase your knowledge Studies indicate that the more time you spend in school, the better able you will be to keep dementia at bay.  Learning is the most fundamental brain workout—and the more you do it, the more you’ll benefit.  The more puzzles and learning you do, the more apt you are to stay focused on one task.  Also, when you are involved in extra curricular activities, such as sports or music, it is proven that you are smarter than an individual that doesn’t participate in any activities.

4) Try something new If you’ve ever wanted to pick up the violin or learn Spanish, now is the time to do it. Learning something brand new—particularly an instrument or a language—after the age of 25 is a great way to keep the brain lively, and the harder you find it, the better!  Think about learning to salsa dance: you may have to do the basic steps hundreds of times, but at some point, you’ll be able to stop counting and start dancing—that’s when you know your brain has got it down pat. Until then, your brain is busily building all sorts of important new connections. Then, when you’ve mastered the skill, it’s time to take up something new.  The same is true when it comes to your workout routine.  Minimum amount of time that should be spent on one program is 3 weeks.  Everybody’s body reacts differently so it could take a lot longer for someone to get used to their routine.  However long it takes you, know that your body is smart and will adapt to the exercises.  It’s up to you, or a trainer, to change up the routine so you are giving your body a new series of exercise patterns.

5) Play a brain-boosting game
Whether it’s a crossword puzzle or a game of Sudoku, doing challenging puzzles is a way of activating the brain—and a surefire way to help keep it sharp. Games are a great way to work your mind because they cause you to think and not to vegetate.  If you take public transportation you can always grab the metro or 24 hrs for free daily crosswords and sudoku’s.  Metro News has now added Metro Play which is a 6-8 page booklet containing games for you to complete on your way home.  These are located in participating Metro News areas.