We hear a lot about the need to exercise these days, but did you know training your brain is just as important? We discover the scientific rationale of why it is beneficial and how to do it effectively.
The saying “Use it or lose it” applies to the muscles in our bodies as well as to the neural pathways and connections in our brain. Just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain more muscle in later years, scientist now believe that following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises can also increase your brain’s cognitive reserve.
How to Brain Train
A brain training exercise is simply doing a complex mental task. Recommendations are that these ‘workouts’ should be performed three times a week. Mixing things up is also important to avoid becoming skilled in one task and only strengthening one aspect of the brain.
Food for Thought
In the same way that protein-rich food can help our bodies to create muscle when we lift weights, there are equally powerful brain boosting diets that you can adopt to supplement your brain training. To keep that grey matter in tip-top condition, try adding beetroot, beef, sardines, eggs and spinach to your diet.
For example, did you know that eggs, more specifically the yolks, are a leading source of choline. Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in helping you remember things like where you left the car keys. Eating protein-rich foods like eggs for breakfast has been proven to improve overall cognitive performance.
While there are great brain training apps that you can download – like the Peak app on the page opposite – you don’t have to have the latest tech to keep your brain in great shape. Here are four really simple real-world exercises you can do today:
Draw A Map from Memory
Take a different route home and when you get back try and draw a map of your route.
Challenge Your Taste Buds
When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including herbs and spices.
Sum It Up
Try to figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper or calculator. We’re not advocating advanced algebra here (unless you can), but a good place to start is going back over your times tables and trying multiplication. Now try doing it while you walk…
Switch It Up
Even the silliest of tasks help with brain training – try switching the hand you use to brush your teeth.
Overall fitness and general health is also important to the brain, so don’t forget to keep physically active and eat a good nutritious diet.