A playful, active mind, just like a playful, active body, retains much of its vigor and youthfulness throughout the aging process. Researchers are now convinced that keeping your mind exercised, active, and challenged will give you a myriad of benefits that will keep you thinking more clearly and effectively as you age.
Neuroscientist Peter Snyder, a researcher at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital, who studies what we can do to maintain memory as our brains age, says “the hippocampus is one of those brain areas that continues to form new cells and make new connections between cells” and that “exercise seems to have the most efficacy” of any intervention.
In fact, the brain appears to be no different from the muscles of the body in its response to training. Cognitive abilities can be maintained or improved by physical exercise as well as challenging the brain with specific brain training activities, just as cardiovascular and muscular systems can be improved by exercising the body. The “use it or lose it” principle pertains to cognitive functioning as substantially as it pertains to physical functioning!
Like physical fitness, brain fitness can be improved by various challenging activities, such as playing chess or bridge, dancing regularly, practicing yoga and tai chi, as well as engaging in more structured computer-based workouts and word games. Providing stimulating exercise and activities for the brain maintains brain health and substantially reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A rapidly developing area in the fitness industry is brain fitness programming, which is designed to blend physical exercise with specific brain activities to optimize brain health. Brain fitness programs are based on neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to change, adapt, and even rewire itself. The good news is, neuroplasticity can occur at any age, irrespective of how much brain reserve an individual has accumulated.
Mind-body games and activities can be easily adapted and integrated with bouts of physical exercise from an easy-to-play game of “Simon Says” to more sophisticated word and movement games interspersed between and during physical exercise.
To learn how to bulk up your hippocampus and to gain insight into how the brain works, how to make it perform with more agility, speed, and comprehension, and how to blend physical exercise with brain-stimulating activities, check out the latest DSWFitness continuing education course Brain Fitness for Older Adults.