How to Keep Your Brain Fit and Strong as You Age
Your brain has a mind of its own. Sounds strange, right? But just like you would exercise your legs to fit into those new pair of pants, your brain needs to be exercised too in order to fight the inevitable wear and tear that aging brings to the body. And with aging, there’s a lot of things your brain is fighting against, think Alzheimer’s and Dementia. So, how can we help our brain in the fight against cognitive decline? Although research has shown that precursors to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s show up in the brain decades before the tall tale signs appear, there are still ways we can slow the progression and equip our brains with the power to push through.
Exercise. When we talk about exercise, we don’t mean you need to aim for a supermodel body or Arnold Schwarzenegger arms. What we mean is get moving! Leading a sedentary lifestyle, like spending your day sitting on the couch watching TV or staring at your computer screen for hours at a time, is a surefire way to set up your cognitive health for failure. Exercise puts good stress on our bodies, challenging our brains to figure out ways to overcome the stress and forcing our bodies to adapt. This is the logic behind why you see start to see weight loss and muscle gain after exercising overtime. Our brains love a good Challenge! Be sure to add a mix of cardio and resistance exercises to your routine.
Cardio can range from a 30-minute brisk walk outside to a high-intensity interval workout like this one. Resistance training uses weighted exercises and incorporates different compound movements, like squats. Here are some examples of some resistance movements to try with just a set of dumbbells. If you are new to these exercises, make sure to take it slow and keep your weights low.
Brain games. We mentioned how the brain likes a good challenge. And regardless of what your grade school teacher told you, your brain is one smart cookie. Put it to the test! Activities like puzzles and board games are always a great option. Your newspaper’s crossword puzzle or Soduku of the day is always a great challenge for your hungry brain. Apps like Lumosity and CogniFit help to improve memory and have been shown to lead to a more sharp and focused noggin. Go the extra mile and try learning a new language. It’s easy with apps like DuoLingo. From Spanish to Japanese, you can choose from over 30 languages. Duolingo makes it fun by pouring gamification into each and every lesson, making it easier to learn a new language. Here’s a list of 10 apps to train your brain.
Sunlight. The sun is a pretty powerful thing. Sunlight can help trigger Vitamin D production, which is known to help lower high blood pressure and, most importantly, improve brain function. Did you know that within 10 minutes of spending time outdoors you can boost your overall mood? This is all thanks to serotonin. This hormone is released in your brain when you head outdoors. Low levels of serotonin have been shown to lead to depression and seasonal affective disorder, which, over time, are harmful to our cognitive health.
Bedtime routine. Sleep is the holy grail of good health. When you’re drifting off to dreamland your body is still hard at work, ensuring you are recharging and reenergizing for the next day. It’s the body’s time to repair cell damage and the environmental wear and tear your system has endured throughout the day. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night will ensure your body has ample time to do this necessary maintenance overnight. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, increased stress and anxiousness, premature aging, and has been linked to certain diseases! Make a point to create a bedtime routine and stick to it. Do your best to not consume any foods two hours before bedtime. Dim the lights and switch off the electronics an hour or two before bed. The light from this technology can affect your body’s ability to wind down and fall asleep. Instead use that time before hitting the sack to do some light reading, write in a journal, or get some causal conversation in with your significant other.
Diet. Your brain needs fuel. Just like your car, putting gas in allows it to run. But putting the premium stuff in allows your vehicle to run smoother for longer, without the constant need to take it in for repairs. Your brain runs the same way. Fueling your body with processed foods like chips, ice cream, and fast-food hamburgers and fries is the equivalent of fueling your car with crummy gas. And one of the biggest sufferers of your processed food addiction is your brain. All of the crazy additives, hormones, and ingredients pumped into these foods actually build up in your brain, creating what’s called Amyloid Plaques, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Give your brain that premium fuel. Be sure to incorporate dark leafy greens into your diet, as well as wild-caught fish, and healthy fats like avocado. Check out our blog post on the healthiest foods to add to your diet to start creating your healthy meal plan.
Your brain has a lot to do throughout your day—between ensuring your breathing, walking, talking, standing up, bending, sleeping, it never stops! But as we age our brains need a little extra TLC to keep our bodies healthy and functioning. See how many of these 5 things you can incorporate into your daily life right now to ensure that your body and your brain age gracefully.