Health and Fitness Talk

Supporting Healthy Life Styles

Brain-Based Exercise Brain-Based Exercise

by Keila Chaliotis, Staff Writer

Well you are probably asking yourself – what is a brain-based exercise?  What probably comes to mind are puzzles, sodoku, hangman and many other different brain games. But brain-based exercises are much more than that. Let´s start by defining brain fitness or cognitive fitness which refers to the healthy state of your brain.

Brain-based exercises are those exercises that help you train both your brain and body. These exercises will help you improve your ability to process information and some motor actions ¨Research has found that reactive exercise improves our BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor, a neurotransmitter that improves brain function and cognition.” For some of us it has become more and more important to also keep your brain active. Today people want to not only look prettier but also be smarter and have more emotional control. So why not kill two birds with the same stone and try exercises that both help you physically and mentally. That´s why more and more programs are being created such as brain fitness podcasts where you train your working memory while you jog or exercise bikes with built in brain games.

Exercises that require concentration, like walking across a balance beam, are considered brain-based exercises, compared to exercises that can be done while mindlessly watching TV.

Exercises that require concentration, like walking across a balance beam, are considered brain-based exercises, compared to exercises that can be done while mindlessly watching TV.

Exercise has proven to maintain your brain healthy. It improves your body´s circulation, brings more oxygen to the brain and helps remove toxins or waste products. Running has proven to grow more brain cells and walking reduces memory loss.
You can enroll in group training classes that require you to make more decisions, which improves your cognitive process. You can do something as simple as walking across a balance beam or incorporate footwork patterns on an agility ladder.  Try challenging your brain while exercising. The brain just like any other muscle responds to stimulation so learning new activities will make your brain stronger.  Make sure you progressively increase the level of difficulty. Keep in mind that the brain can be improved, no matter the age.

You can choose to do different activities such as taking dancing lessons or sculpture classes which will help you develop physical and eye hand coordination skills. Learning a new language can help you improve your memory skills. Also good energetic play can be a wonderful way to set your brain for learning. Even short exercise breaks during the day can re-energize your brain. If it is possible try to get quick breaks of jumping jacks, push-ups, quick paced walk in the hall or an empty room at work or walk around your neighborhood.  Several minutes of jumping rope can also be very effective. These exercises can be applied by children during the day.

There are a numerous of benefits from brain based exercises such as improvement in coordination, balance, skill; memory recall and speed; learning skills, emotional balance and control; focus and determination; blood flow, decreasing depression due to the increase of serotonin and an increase in positive feelings of happiness and euphoria.

After reading all the benefits from brain based exercises I suggest you start applying yourself. Start practicing and increase your brain health. If after reading this article you are still not convinced try it yourself and test it. See how you feel after a couple of days of working out and exercising your brain. There are even web pages with games that allow you to see how quickly your response is, your memory etc. and you can also see the improvement. Search for the best programs for you.

The important thing is to keep your mind and body active. You can even do math problems in your head while driving, walking or cooking. Another activity is listening to music, aside from being entertaining it also a good way to keep your brain in action. It is important you don’t allow your mind to wander. Don’t leave the opportunity for bad and negative thoughts to cross your mind. You can try talking to yourself, that´s better than not exercising your brain at all. Sometimes we need to listen to our subconscious, so talking to ourselves can help us answer some of our own questions and doubts. Just keep those thoughts positive.

Some exercises don’t even take a lot of time. You can do them in seconds. Do things as simple as using  your other arm to brush your teeth, change the TV channel or dial the phone. Try taking a new route to work, or take a shower with your eyes closed, forcing your other senses to work more.