We know that as we age we start to lose brain cells and many of us will have to face the prospect of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. The human brain is a fascinating and mysterious part of our anatomy and one we still have a lot to learn and discover about.
That said, while we can’t avoid getting older, keeping our cognitive function in good condition as we age is something we can actively pursue.
Good brain health is as important as good physical health because the brain is responsible for our:
- Motor function - balance and movement
- Cognitive function - learning, thinking and recalling memories
- Emotional function - the entire range of emotions we use to respond to scenarios
- Tactile function - our ability to react and respond to touch, pressure and temperature
Daily Brain Workout
Looking after our brains as we age is crucial. While some medical conditions and lifestyle factors can increase cognitive decline, for many of us spending just a few minutes on concentrated ‘brainwork’ each day can help to keep our minds in tip top condition, delaying or even preventing serious brain deterioration.
Active brains start with active bodies
As with so many things in life, regular physical activity is the key to overall health. A fit and healthy body is more conducive to an active mind than a sedentary, unfit one. Not only that, learning a new skill or piece of information via a physical activity can help you to retain the information even more easily. Why not try these short bursts of activity each day to get your cognitive juices flowing?
- Throw and catch a ball.
- Concentrate on manual dexterity with a squeeze or stress ball
- Take stairs or walk over uneven ground (if able).
- Count and calculate the distance you’ve walked/score on the dartboard etc
- Play bowls, golf, mini golf, bocce, quoits, croquet (if able).
- Try arts and crafts projects.
Exercises like these are fantastic for increasing blood flow to the brain and protecting against cognitive degeneration. They use your cognitive ability, motor function, tactile function and are great at creating new neural pathways.
Similarly, playing games like scrabble, jigsaws, chess, card games and charades can create new neural pathways and help to stave off cognitive decline. Although these games are played without physical activity they are still incredibly good ways to keep your brain in peak condition. Mental maths, crosswords and sudoku are equally fantastic.
Keep it Social
Staying connected to others is another way to improve cognitive condition. A solitary life offers much less stimulation than one that includes socialising. In fact loneliness is incredibly detrimental to our brain functions and has been shown to be as bad for our overall health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Do your best to join some local interest clubs - walking, dancing, arts & crafts, historical societies etc. Learn a new skill - maybe sign up for a local college evening class. Perhaps consider offering your time to a local charity - where your job might involve organising events/stock/finances etc. Maintain regular conversations with family and friends.
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