Today, Thursday, January 17, 2019

How to Boost Brain Power Through Exercise

For years people have recognized the power that writing something down has in being able to anchor a thought or emotion in the brain. This process of anchoring emotions and memories with a physical touch or action is now well supported by studies and frequently used by those who practice Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP).

Recognition that the mind/body connection exists in building and retaining memories is abundant. More recently however, researchers have been fine tuning their attention to focus on the relationship between exercise and the brain. They are asking many new questions and finding evidence that supports the belief that exercise can boost brain power.

Exercise and the Brain

How does exercise boost brain power? U.S. researchers have found that exercise helps the brain develop new brain cells in an area of the brain called the dentate gyrus. This area is a part of the brain region known as the hippocampus; an area that is known to be involved with age related memory loss (which for most people starts, albeit mostly unnoticed, around the age of 30). The studies performed involved mice but the MRIs later performed on humans supported the evidence found in those studies; there was increased blood flow to the memory center of the brain after exercise. Scientists found the similarities to be “remarkable”.

The evidence about the ability for exercise to boost brain power is mounting. And it makes sense that it is; especially when you consider how important exercise is for cardiovascular health, joint and bone fitness, and maintaining proper weight, flexibility and balance. The increased blood flow to the brain may help optimize the way the brain functions and learns. Basically, anything that helps the body to decrease stress hormones (which will improve attention span as well as mood) and increase the body's metabolism will also help the brain. It helps by making the brain cells healthier and better able to link to other cells. This action is vital for conveying and retaining new information.

The fact that exercise makes positive changes in the nervous system and boosts cognitive abilities has not gone unnoticed by schools. Many states have now established minimum times and frequency for physical education. This type of action is supported by studies that show how much better physically fit third graders and fifth graders performed on standardized tests than students who were sedentary. The evidence that links obesity with lower levels of academic achievement in school children is starting to crop up everywhere.

The evidence showing that exercise boosts brain power is now so compelling that many scientists are wondering what types of exercises will best boost brain power (which includes both reducing memory loss and improving cognition). There is no conclusive evidence about which type of exercise has the greatest impact but there have been many studies that document the impact of various activities. Here are some interesting ones to consider.

Boost Your Brain Power with these Exercises

Studies show that cognitive function will improve immediately after ten minutes of aerobic exercise. Thus if you are sitting behind a desk and need to be reenergized, try ten minutes of walking up and down stairs, or a quick turn around the block before reaching for a cup of java. This will have a better impact on sharpening your brain since caffeine tends to increase edginess rather than increase clarity.

Writing things down helps to anchor memories. Writing is a modest physical activity but nevertheless demonstrates the mind/body/action connection. Writing with creative elements (e.g. poetry, diaries etc.) will boost your brain by challenging it

Adding music to an exercise routine can boost brain power. The mood boosting powers of exercise are well known but adding music to this gives an added boost; emotionally and cognitively. Studies show that exercising to music can increase the scores that cardiac rehabilitation patients have on verbal fluency tests.

This is an important finding since coronary artery disease may indeed decrease cognitive ability. So far the evidence is quite favorable that exercise alone increases the cognitive performance of those who have been impacted by coronary artery disease, but adding music to it may enhance its ability to help even further. It has not been established if this varies according to the style of music chosen (so far studies have used classical music).

Walking vigorously at least three times a week was found to lessen the likelihood of developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease by thirty three percent over those who were more sedentary. Other forms of regular exercise would also help prevent these. This happens because exercise helps prevent high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol and diabetes; all of which can lead to dementia.

Activities that involve non-routine actions and thoughts (e.g. creative writing) will help boost brain power. This works because activities of this type cause the brain to produce chemicals which stimulate new dendrites and neurons to grow in the brain. Years ago, it was erroneously thought that the brain ceased to grow after a person reached adulthood. The fallacy of that notion is now undisputed. Today “neurobics” (aerobics for the mind) abound. In order for the brain to benefit, brain exercises must involve activities that are not done automatically (e.g. write with the hand opposite to the one you usually use), use one or more of your physical senses, involve your complete attention (even if just briefly), and break away from your routine in a significant way. Neurobics can easily be incorporated on a daily basis because they can be brief and they do not have to be complicated; just different. Here are a few examples, but being creative and inventing your own will be a brain boosting activity by itself.

Brush your teeth or write something with your non-dominant hand

2.     Change your dressing routine. Start putting clothes on in a different order than usual.

3.     Learn phrases from another language. Learning sign language will incorporate physical aspects into this exercise.

4.     Change the course of your daily walk. Change the pattern and duration of your exercise routines.

5.     Travel to new places. It has been shown that the novelty of new places seems to slow down decline due to age.

6.     Distinguish objects in your hands with your eyes closed (the more subtle the differences the better the exercise).

7.     Singing and rhyming will stimulate the right side of your brain which specializes in pattern recognition.

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