Keeping Your Brain in Shape

Keeping Your Brain in Shape - South Denver Cardiology

We have all heard the old saying of “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That implies that as you age, it is harder to learn new skills. However, when it comes to brain fitness and keeping your brain in shape, that saying holds little merit.

The brain continues to be one of the most fascinating organs in the human body. It is one of the most complex and still continues to be one that we are constantly learning more and more about. In fact, we once thought the human brain, after age one, stopped creating neurons. However, we know now that the human brain continues to build new neurons throughout life. Research into brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change at any age, indicates that activities at all levels of brain operation help improve the function (and reduce the rate of decline) of the brain.

The fact is, the brain desires to stay fit and learn new things and new skills, each and every day. When the brain learns new things that information is put into memory through repetition.

Then, you turn from being an active learner, into an active user of that skill. That is a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. As you continue to just use the same skills in the same way over and over, your brain just gets lazy. You are not doing any to stimulate it and it just goes into repetition mode. As such, you are not challenging your brain. After all, change strengthens the connection between neurons and keeps them engaged at the same time. And, as we say, neurons that fire together, wire together.

To help keep your brain fit, there are many things you can do:

Stay Social

Your brain wants to engage in conversations. So, instead of isolating yourself, meet with friends and family and stay socially active.

Exercise

Believe it or not, studies show that physical activity keeps the brain more active than doing things like crossword puzzles. So, keeping a good exercise regimen is not only great for your cardiovascular health, but also your brain fitness. That is partially why many work places are now encouraging active exercise or even standing work environments. They help keep the brain active and as a result, workers are more focused at work, especially when doing repetitive or mundane tasks.

Use the Other Hand

Try learning to do things with your non-dominant hand. Start with some common tasks, like brushing your teeth with your other hand until you have perfected it. Then you can move up to more complex skills. This will challenge brain as you know what you have to do, but are now doing it in a new and challenging environment. This gets a lot more neurons firing at the same time and creates some new learning pathways in your brain.

Memorize a New Song

Find a song you like but have not memorized. Then, listen to that song until you can write down all the lyrics. This will build your skill of careful listening, thinking and remembering. This builds active memory and focus. And, when you focus, you release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that enables plasticity and vivifies memory.

Learn an Instrument

Ever wanted to learn the piano, guitar or saxophone? Well, it is never too late to do so! In fact, it is encouraged as playing an instrument requires listening, control of movements and translation of notes through sight to movement and sound. So, you really exercise all part of your brain with music.

Continue to Challenge Yourself

If you have activities you do by yourself, continue to take it to the next level. If you like crossword puzzles, don’t stay on the same level of difficulty. After all, there is limited value in doing things that you can do without paying close attention. Moving up levels keeps you brain re-engaging and learning.

How to Use This Information

We all know that keeping your brain healthy, also goes a long way in keeping your heart healthy. The better you feel mentally, also helps reduce stress and makes you more active. We have several resources on brain fitness online if you are curious about the subject.