The benefits of exercising your brain

Have you ever wondered why exercising your brain is important and how you can exercise it to keep it healthy? Research indicates that exercising the brain is like exercising the heart; when we keep blood flowing, we keep ourselves fit.

I spoke with Dr. Mario Dulay, neuropsychologist at the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute, who gave us two important factors on how to keep your brain healthy and in shape, and why doing so is good for you.

Use it or lose it

The more you test and use your brain, the better it will perform. Dulay says that any cognitive stimulation is better than none, so staying physically, mentally, and socially active allows your brain to function better than a less active person.

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Mentally-stimulating activities reinforce brain cells and the connections between them, and might even create new nerve cells.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, mentally-stimulating activities reinforce brain cells and the connections between them, and might even create new nerve cells. Such stimulating activities consist of games, educational activities and social activities.

Practice makes perfect

Cognitive compensation refers to the idea of practicing tricks to improve cognition. Examples include using mnemonics to remember people’s names, or using a calendar to improve the likelihood of not forgetting.

Dulay says people become more forgetful and lose cognitive abilities as they age. By compensating with tricks or reminders, we help maintain our independence and decrease stress.

In addition, compensatory activities may provide mental stimulation that can improve cognitive function and increase cognitive reserve, or the mind’s ability to resist damage to the brain.

Brain training is all about picking something you love so you'll do it consistently Click To Tweet

Dulay also emphasizes that it’s not just about doing anything; it’s about doing what you love and doing it often.

Here is a list of some suggested activities you can do to help exercise your brain:

  • Read
  • Volunteer or mentor
  • Learn something new; a new instrument, hobby, language, etc.
  • Explore a region or culture of the world that interests you
  • Brain teasers or word games
  • Write a blog
  • Attend a cooking class
  • Play with your grandchildren

Each of these activities can help stimulate your brain; but remember, it’s important to find something you enjoy doing and will consistently do.