Written by MindMate Staff
As we age, it becomes more important than ever to ensure our brains stay in top condition. If we let the body degrade, the mind will surely follow. Thankfully, one of the most effective ways to boost brain health is regular exercise. The link between physical exercise and cognitive improvement has been extensively researched, and a recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. However, the study found that resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.This increase in hippocampal volume resulted in better recall of recent events, an improvement in organizational skills and participants reporting that they felt less prone to “brain fog” that had bothered them previously.
A different branch of cognitive training involves more of the mental stimulation that you would expect in improving brain health. In conjunction with using brain training software, experts suggest training your brain using activities that encourage interaction with the real world, especially for people going through the early stages of dementia. David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas says that even the simplest exercises can work. Altering your learned routine causes the brain to build new associations and pathways, so actions such as driving home via a different route or brushing your teeth with your opposite hand can work wonders in exercising the brain. Even varying your mealtimes and learning how to cook a new cuisine can help train your brain, as you are stimulating all five senses. Of course, regular cognitive exercises such as doing the daily crossword or sudoku in the newspaper have also been proven to increase brain capacity by up to 36%, but these are just some alternative ways to train your brain without taking time out of your daily tasks.
The final, and perhaps most important, factor in boosting brain health is diet. The food we eat fuels every action of our lives, so it’s no surprise that it plays a huge role in how well our brains function. The most recent diet proven to improve brain health and curtail the effects of dementia is the MIND diet. It’s the latest frontier in the fight against cognitive decline, developed by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet combines elements of both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Like the Mediterranean diet, it encourages eating lots of green vegetables and fish, but incorporates a wider range of berries, nuts and pulses, such as beans, several times a week. Hopefully, combining these methods of mental and physical exercise, we can all enjoy many more years of brain health!
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