Brain exercises? Just like your biceps need an exercise regime to stay, so does your brain. Although you may not love going to the gym, brain exercises are pretty fun… and really effective to boost cognitive functions, including memory, speed, calculation, concentration, and more. Also known as neurobics, brain aerobics can be performed by anybody at any age. Like cross-training for your brain, neurobics are a great way to retrain your brain to develop new neurological pathways and improve mental fitness. But that’s not the only way to prevent memory loss and boost mental fitness.
Try these five fun and challenging brain boosting exercises:
Regular Physical Exercise
You probably already know that regular exercise is good for your body, but you may not know just how good it is for your brain. In one study, researchers found that higher physical activity was associated with a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline.1
Scientists have confirmed that regular exercise is an expensive, effective, and accessible way to minimize the adverse effects of cognitive decline among seniors, especially those at high-risk for age-related memory loss.2
The Exercise: Head to your local library, and pick up a mailer. Inside, you will find places to take a group fitness class. Chose one that sounds fun, like aerobics or Zumba!
Brain Training Apps
Neurologists know that mental exercises can help to boost brain activity, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline that is common with age. If you have a smartphone or another mobile device like an iPad, you can access any of these five most popular brain training games.
Luminosity. This is a free app in the iOS store and Android Play, offering a seemingly endless selection of cognitive and scientific brain games specifically designed to boost working memory by stimulating your brain.
Dakim. This brain fitness program features a set of brain games and puzzles that give your mind a comprehensive workout. With access to over 100 exercises all developed to boost your attention and concentration, why not try Dakim? Your first game is free.
Clevermind. Have fun with Clevermind’s social, medical, and dietary tools, and it’s easy-to-read interface with digital assistant voice support (kinda like Siri). With so many different brain-training games designed just for people with cognitive loss, you can’t lose with Clevermind.
The Exercise: Get online and order one of these great brain exercise apps, today!
Try Something New
You may not realize it, but you probably have tons of habits that you do every day. For example, do you always brush your teeth in the same order during your morning personal care routine? Most people do. Switch it up tomorrow. Studies have shown that trying something new like simply brushing your teeth with the opposite hand in the morning can train your brain to use different parts of the cortex – the area of the brain needed to control tactile information, like hand movements.3
The Exercise: Every other day, do one thing different in your morning personal care routine. If you usually grab the toothbrush with your left hand, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, use your right hand instead.
Your brain engages with music in a unique way. Only music can take you back in time to experience a memory just by playing it. And that can give an aging mind a boost. However, that’s not the only way music can exercise your brain.
According to Brandon Ally, a School of Medicine assistant professor of neurology, music may help those suffering from age-related cognitive decline to remember things more easily. In one study, Ally discovered that healthy elderly participants who were put to a memory test retained more words when they were set to music as lyrics than when spoken.4
Additionally, background music, and even white noise has been shown to improve memory and processing speed in healthy adults.5
The Exercise: Play a Mozart album while you work on a simple task. This may increase synapse connections in the brain, improving memory and processing speed.
Stimulate Your Sniffer
Your sense of smell is a powerful tool to stimulate new neural pathways in the brain. The olfactory nerves found inside nasal passages are responsive to plant essences, also known as essential oils. These plant-based oils provide the active chemicals known to offer health benefits, as well as a boost in cognitive performance.
Numerous studies have confirmed that the essential oils of peppermint, ylang-ylang, melissa, rosemary, and lavender were the most effective.6-9
The Exercise: Add 5-15 drops of your favorite essential oil into your bath, shower, foot soak, cold compress, or in your body lotions to gain all of the brain boosting power of plant essences.
Your brain is just like the muscles in your body: it needs exercise to stay strong. While you can lose muscle mass over time, you can also lose brainpower as you age to atrophy. Scientists have confirmed the connection between multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors and a reduced risk for age-related cognitive decline.10
So, add these five fun and challenging brain exercises to your healthy lifestyle, to boost your brainpower, today!
For more health advice, keep reading:
1. Scarmeas N, Luchsinger JA. Physical activity, diet, and risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA. 2009 Aug 12;302(6):627-37.
2. Liu-Ambrose T, Eng JJ. Promotion of the mind through exercise (PROMoTE): a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial of aerobicexercise training in older adults with vascular cognitive impairment. BMC Neurol. 2010 Feb 17;10:14.
3. Alberto Gallace. Touch and the Body: The Role of the Somatosensory Cortex in Tactile Awareness. Psyche, Volume 16, number 1.
4. Nicholas R. Simmons-Stern, Andrew E. Budson. Music as a Memory Enhancer in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Neuropsychologia. 2010 Aug; 48(10): 3164–3167.
5. Sara Bottiroli, Alessia Rosi. The cognitive effects of listening to background music on older adults: processing speed improves with upbeat music, while memory seems to benefit from both upbeat and downbeat music. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014; 6: 284.
6. Mark Moss, Steven Hewitt, Lucy Moss, Keith Wesnes; MODULATION OF COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE AND MOOD BY AROMAS OF PEPPERMINT AND YLANG-YLANG; International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 118, Iss. 1, 2008.
7. Ballard CG1, O’Brien JT. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. J Clin Psychiatry;m2002 Jul;63(7):553-8.
8. Mark Moss, Lorraine Oliver. Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 2012 Jun; 2(3): 103–113.
9. Peir Hossein Koulivand, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri. Lavender and the Nervous System. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 681304. 2013 Mar 14.
10. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 9;8(12):e81877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081877. eCollection 2013.