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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Giving your brain a workout: 5 exercises to try yourself

While we all know the importance of a regular exercise routine and keeping physically fit, what often gets overlooked are the advantages of keeping your brain active as well. But there are benefits from flexing your cognitive muscles.

Placing a priority on your physical and mental health can make all the difference in aging well. The key is to make it a part of your daily routine. The effort you put in today can result in maintaining or improving your future health. Here are three possible benefits when you give your brain a workout.

Benefits of brain training

Studies continue to be conducted to determine if exercising your brain will result in improved memory, attention and verbal skills. As of yet, there is not always a definitive answer to how it may work, but many results have been encouraging.

1. Learning

When you acquire new skills, you may be strengthening and creating neural pathways and networks. It may also increase your brain’s flexibility and adaptability to change.

2. Training programs

After a brief course of brain exercises, one study examined the effects of programs that attempted to train in these areas:

  • Processing speed

  • Memory

  • Reasoning ability

After five years, those with training performed better than those untrained. They were still able to maintain their improvements in reasoning skills and processing speed 10 years later. One of the benefits is also the possibility of delaying symptoms of cognitive decline.

3. Brain exercises

Brain activities may have a positive impact on your mood, help increase your focus and concentration, boost your productivity and improve your memory as well as reaction time.

Although research is still continuing, you have little to lose but much to gain if you decide to give your brain a workout. Here are 5 activities that can help get you on your way.

1. Start by taking care of your body and mind

Studies continue to show that those who exercise regularly and have a healthy diet are less at risk for cognitive declines that can be associated with aging. Beyond physical exercise, to get your brain in the best shape, it’s recommended that you don’t smoke, maintain a healthy BMI, eat abundant amounts of vegetables and fruits and limit your consumption of alcohol.

Also, try scheduling time to make meditation a regular part of your daily routine. It appears it can be effective in improving brain skills and managing stress. It’s suggested that meditation may also improve attention and focus.

2. Test your memory

One activity to try is to start with a place you know fairly well, like your neighborhood, hometown or the city you live in now, and draw a map from memory. Try to add as much detail as possible, including street names, major roads and landmarks. Afterward, compare your memorized version with an actual map and see how you did.

Even though you may know your neighborhood clearly, the task of drawing it and assigning labels also activates different parts of your brain. You can do this exercise with just about anything, including a map of the United States, a world atlas or the shelf items in your local grocery store.

3. Play games

There is no shortage of options here if you want to give your brain something to concentrate on. The only rule is to make sure it’s a challenge. We tend to create routines that help us more easily navigate our days, but for our brains to benefit, we need to give it a chance to work on something new and preferably difficult.

Consider word or jigsaw puzzles. Part of the challenge of putting a puzzle together is the process of understanding the image, reviewing the possible pieces and imagining where they may fit. There are also many online games and apps available. Although the science is still unclear on whether formal brain training programs are effective, they can still be fun.

4. Learning new information or skills

Lifelong learning has many advantages but one of them is helping your brain stay in shape. The key is to challenge your brain by learning something new, such as a language or musical instrument, or a new way of accomplishing a task, such as writing or eating with your non-dominant hand.

One study assigned older adults to learn a new skill and then afterward conducted memory tests. They were compared with the control group, who had taken part in activities that didn’t challenge them mentally, such as watching movies or listening to the radio. The research found that there was an improvement in the memory tests but only for those who had learned a new skill. These improvements were still present when they were tested a year later.

5. Make socializing a priority

If you already are socially active, you may think this requires little skill or contribution from your brain, but research would disagree. And recent studies have found that people who regularly socialize are at a lower risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Why? When we interact with others we engage multiple areas of our brain. And if what we are doing requires a physical role, like a sport or activity, that’s even better. But we benefit from getting together with a group of friends regardless of the setting. Whether it’s joining a book club, volunteering for a great cause or making sure to stay in touch with your friends and family, the advantages are there.

Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge Independent Living community

We understand the importance of keeping our brains and bodies active and the role they both play in aging well and living life to the fullest. We have designed our communities to meet the needs of people just like you, who are engaged in life and looking forward to all that is waiting ahead.

We think you’ll appreciate our beautiful and spacious cottages and apartment homes, our natural setting and the attractions of our nation’s capital only a few miles away. Everything you may need to continue living a fulfilled life is waiting right outside your door.

Call (703) 794-4631 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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