Regular exercise can have a twofold effect on your health.
Swimming is a great all-round activity-it keeps your heart rate up and is low impact. Cycling is excellent for cardiovascular health and helps strengthen your muscles. Yoga is ideal for stretching out your body and clearing your mind.
Yet there's something we often don't think of exercising-our mind.
Brain health is important. As we age, our brain changes, as does our mental function. Mental decline is common as we get older and is a universal fear of aging. But cognitive impairment isn't inevitable. There are ways to strengthen your brain health and help with memory retention.
Just like regular exercise can help your body, here are some activities to strengthen your brain.
If you want to exercise your brain, you're going to need to get your heart moving. Exercise pumps more oxygen to the brain and helps release a variety of hormone to provide a nourishing environment for brain cell growth. You don't need to finish an Iron Man to feel the benefits-just get your heart rate up 30 minutes a day. Not only will you feel better, exercise improves mood and sleep, and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your brain. Generally, adults should sleep between seven and nine hours a night. Sleep affects our overall health, including hormones and the immune system. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, there's an increase in the limbic structure involved in memory and emotional regulation. This is when your mind takes the experiences of the day and converts them into memories. The deeper you sleep, the better your mind can heal itself. Consistency matters. Train your brain to sleep well by going to bed and getting up around the same time each day (even on weekends).
The better you eat, the better you're supporting your brain. It should be no surprise foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and oily fish, are good for brain health. But you can also benefit from dark chocolate, black coffee, whole grains, blueberries, and avocados. Avoid processed foods. Also try to eat foods packed with antioxidants, like turmeric and pumpkin seeds.
Meditation is more than sitting cross-legged and chanting a mantra. It's an opportunity to refocus your thoughts and consciously center your mind. Start by finding a quiet location and sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice how your body moves with each inhale and exhale. Stay in the moment and feel how your chest, shoulders, and belly move with each breath. Regular meditation can make you happier, help you manage stress and anxiety, raise cortisol levels, and sharpen your memory.
Being mindful is an incredible tool to help you understand people. It's an effective method to get to know yourself and to live in the moment. You should practice mindfulness in all aspects of your life. Start simple: try walking with purpose. Know where you're going and where you came from. Think about your decisions and consider how they impact others. Experience the world in the present. Be conscious of what you eat, how you talk to others, and how you approach each day. By being mindful, you'll appreciate your decisions and discover how you fit into the world.
Train Your Brain
The best way to keep your brain healthy and happy is to challenge yourself. Just like you'd get tired of eating the same meal every day, your brain craves variety. Try new exercises outside of the gym. Volunteer at local charities, host a get-together, or plan a vacation to a new place. Your mind wants to be stimulated. When you read new books or do crossword puzzles, you're testing yourself, which helps improve neural connections. Remember: your brain is a muscle that wants to be exercised-give it the engagement it needs.
Here's a Smart Idea
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Your brain is your interface to the world, managing all of life's demands. Preserve your mental energy to focus on creating experiences, living your best life, and making memories with your friends and family.
Ben Raskin is a triple threat: bluesman, cyclist, and nutritional supplement specialist. When he isn't deep in thought, Ben can be found in the mountains of Utah looking for the best fishing spot.