Showing posts with label brain exercises. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brain exercises. Show all posts

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Exercises for Your Brain

Over the past year, several readers of this blog have asked me about the best exercises for the brain.  I listed a few in an article I wrote called "Brain Activities to Lower Alzheimers Risk," which some of you may have missed.  I'll repeat those exercises here, but I am also going to add some that I have recently heard about.  After all, we need all the advise we can get, if we want to keep our brains in top shape as we age!

In the AAA Westways Magazine for July/August, 2012, there was a short article about brain boosters.  What I particularly liked about their article was the statement, "any type of exercise will help the brain."  That was certainly good news, because most of us do not strictly follow a brain building program! 

Another thing I liked about the Westways Magazine list was the fact that their exercises are designed especially for people who are traveling ... which a lot of us Baby Boomers will be doing, especially after they retire.  By putting all the different exercises together, I've come up with the following list.

My List of Exercises for the Brain

Try cross-training for the brain. (Use the opposite hand to do common activities, such as eating or brushing your teeth)

Practice memorizing lists of words, by using silly word associations.

Do crossword puzzles, soduku or similar word games.

Learn something new and difficult, such as playing an instrument, speaking a new language, or developing your computer skills.

Socialize.  There is a great deal of research that shows it hurts your physical and mental health to let yourself become isolated.  Get out and meet people.  Join a club.  Learn to play bridge. (If it is new to you, it is even better for your brain.)  Make sure you are having fun with other people several times a week.

Do cardio exercises to get the blood pumping to your brain.  Try walking fast, riding a bike or using a treadmill or the exercise equipment at your local gym or hotel fitness center, when you are on the road.  When you are on a trip, you should also walk as much as you can.  The fresh air and exercise are both good for your brain.

Do strength building exercises, like push ups, or use free weights to build strength.  Building muscle also helps keep the blood flowing.

Dance!  Put on some music you love, and dance, dance, dance.  If you enjoy it, sign up for line dancing classes or jazzercise.

Try using two or more senses at once.  Walk up and down the aisle of a train or plane while you are traveling, which requires you to keep your balance, while using your eyes, sense of touch, etc. 

Laugh.  More and more often I hear about the benefits of laughing aloud several times a day.  It is good for our heart, brain and overall health.

Take a few deep breaths several times a day.  Inhale, hold your breath; exhale, hold your breath.  Repeat.

Sleep.  People who have at least seven hours of sleep a night seem to do better on many different types of health evaluations.

Finally, it is important to eat well.  While this is not an exercise, it should be mentioned in any article about brain health.  Include good quality protein and a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet every day.

If you are interested in more information about your health as you age, financial planning, where to retire, changing family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Use It or Lose It - Your Brain in Retirement

As you prepare to retire, have you given much thought to how you will spend your time?  Many people look forward to the day they can finally retire, kick back and relax.  However, there is a lot of medical evidence indicating that spending too much time resting our bodies and our minds is not a healthy approach.  Relaxation might be great for a one week vacation, but it is not the ideal way to plan to spend the next twenty years of your life.

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, in an article he wrote for the May/June, 2011 edition of the AARP Magazine, there are risks in retirement, especially for your brain.  In essence, we must use it or lose it.  It is extremely important that we continue to keep our brains stimulated and it helps to learn something new ... to play an instrument, speak a new language, or learn a challenging new game.

We have always known that this is true when we have talked about our body and our muscles.  If we don’t get up and take frequent walks, we will eventually discover that it becomes harder and harder to maintain our health and stay in good physical shape.  The same principle applies to the brain.

Earlier this year, the RAND Center for the Study of Aging published a study that was done in conjunction with the University of Michigan.  They tested cognitive performance in people from a variety of countries and discovered that cognitive performance was lower in countries that had earlier retirement ages.  In other words, when people stop working and spend too much time in undemanding activities, their mental ability begins to atrophy!

Think about what that means when people strive to give up their careers as soon as possible.  Suddenly, they no longer spend their work days around other people.  They no longer have to read challenging material, or learn new skills.  They are less likely to be engaged with complicated problems that they have to solve.  Their brain begins to lose its edge.

What can you do to prevent this decline?  Many medical researchers suggest that retirement is the perfect time to start a second career, or learn a new language.  Have you always wanted to play a musical instrument?  Retirement may be opportunity you've been waiting for.  You could even get together with your friends and start a garage band.  Why not?  This is the time of your life when you have the time and opportunity to learn anything new that interests you!  Just remember how important it is to keep challenging yourself.

This might also be a fun time to go back to college and advance your education.  Many community colleges offer inexpensive or free classes to senior citizens.  Ask about the Emeritus Program at a college near you.  

You could take up writing, become a yoga teacher, or design jewelry and sell it at craft fairs.  Whatever you do, you should make certain that you are exercising both your mind and your body frequently.  Find activities that are mentally challenging and that force you to interact regularly with other people.  Both the mental stimulation and the social interaction will have a positive effect on the quality of your retirement years.

If you are interested in learning new things that will improve your life after retirement, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page for links to hundreds of additional articles on financial planning, health concerns, where to retire and more!

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