We walk, we bike, we swim, we stretch, we lift weights, all in the pursuit of keeping our bodies fit and functional. However, research suggests we are not addressing our overall health unless we include healthy brain activities as well. Incorporating brain exercises into our workout regimen will help make sure we stay sharp both physically and cognitively.
Here are a few basic brain exercises to improve memory and help keep your brain as well-toned as your body.
1. Solve the Puzzle
Puzzles like crosswords and sudoku, and word games like scrambled words and cryptograms are great brain stimulators. All you need is a newspaper or a puzzle book and your brain will get a workout.
2. Test Your Memory
Make a grocery list, or a list of friends or things to do or state capitals and memorize it. Put it aside for an hour or so. Then try to recall as many items on the list as you can. The less familiar the subject matter, the more challenging it will be to remember.
3. Make Some Music
Studies show pursuing something new over an extended period of time is a great way to engage the mind. Learning a musical instrument or joining a choir will help keep you and your brain in harmony.
4. Math on the Go
While you are taking your morning walk outside or on the treadmill, create math problems in your head and solve them without the benefit of a pencil or computer. Talk about maximizing your workout.
5. Cook for Cognition
Cooking is a delicious way to exercise the brain. Not only will you be stimulating multiple parts of the brain including smell, touch, sight and taste, but you’ll also come away with new meal ideas.
6. Parlez-Vous Francais?
Learning a foreign language requires your brain to fire on all cylinders. You’ll improve your listening and hearing skills while supporting memory,
7. Create Words
In much the same way you would create math problems in your head, try visualizing the spelling of different words. Make a game of it by spelling a word, then thinking of synonyms or words that start with the same two letters.
8. Map it Out
Get a blank map of the United States and try filling in the names of all the states. Once you’ve done that, try adding the capital cities from memory, or the names of airports in the big cities. There are unlimited ways to test your memory.
9. It’s the Little Things
As we age, our decreased brain function interferes with our small motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Try a new skill like knitting, drawing or assembling a jigsaw puzzle to hone your dexterity.
10. Combine the Mental and Physical
There are many sports that integrate mental and physical activity. Yoga, tennis, and golf are a few great examples.
Though these days there is a plethora of brain training software out there, the jury is out on its effectiveness. Experts suggest the best results will come from real-world activities. Even something as simple as completing a routine task with a different hand can challenge your brain and help maintain its acuity. However, you choose to exercise your brain, remember, it’s the thoughts that count.