The Research on "Brain Exercise"|
It may seem weird, but you really can develop a plan to exercise your brain, similar to the way lifting weights increases your muscle strength. Instead of weight-training though, you train your brain to improve its attention and focus through a variety of mind exercises. Over time this allows you to better block out distractions and improve concentration.
In fact, researchers at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that "attention training," such as regularly doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, can help keep older adults' minds young. The Brain Fitness in Older Adults (B-fit) study used brain scans to visualize blood flow and brain activity to determine how this type of training affects brain function. In the study, the training involved either a structured one-on-one mental workout program or a group brain exercise program. In the one-on-one sessions, subjects were asked to ignore distracting information as tasks got harder during the eight-week training. For the group sessions, participants learned new information relevant to healthy aging and were tested on their ability to apply the new information. Follow-up brain scans showed that in the group receiving the one-on-one training, activity related to sight was increased, while activity related to sound was decreased. In addition, performance on the task was improved. Basically, the one-on-one training allowed the older adults to better focus. Just like the old saying says, "Practice makes perfect!"
Your Brain-Building Plan
So, just how do you use this information to reap your own brain-boosting benefits? Try these great ideas to start exercising your own brain.
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2. Get trivial. Once a week, get together with your friends and play Trivial Pursuit or another trivia-based game. Remembering historical facts or pop culture tidbits can help work that brain of yours in new ways! You can even try each day!
3. Eat brain-feeding foods. Nosh regularly on foods that are high in healthy fats, such as walnuts or salmon, both of which contain essential . Not only are they good for you, they're tasty too!
4. Keep up with your workouts! In many of the brain research studies, those who were the most fit reaped the most brain benefits, so keep exercising regularly and challenging your body.
5. De-stress regularly. Your brain can be negatively affected by stress, and studies performed at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital found that regular and practice can increase the size of the hippocampus.
6. Hit the hay early and often. Studies have found that you need an average of eight hours of sleep a night for optimal brain function. It's also really good for your overall health and fitness—not to mention your mood!
7. Play mind games. Whether it's a crossword puzzle, Soduku or Scrabble, engage your brain in some play most days of the week. And try to mix up your games. Just like building muscles, your brain will adapt as it grows stronger in one skill, so you have to keep challenging it in new ways.
Brain Builders, from ClubIndustry.com
Cardiorespiratory fitness and brain atrophy in early Alzheimer disease, from Neurology.com
Imaging correlates of brain function in monkeys and rats isolates a hippocampal subregion differentially vulnerable to aging, from PNAS.org
Improve Your Concentration with Brain Fitness Activities, from About.com
Strength Training for the Brain, from ClubIndustry.com
Three Pounds You Never Want to Lose, from PsychologyToday.com