Exercise Your Brain

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Mood & Memory
Last Reviewed 04/21/2014

exercise your brain

We all know that we need to exercise our muscles to keep them toned and healthy. Unfortunately, when it comes to improving cognitive abilities, we completely overlook the value of exercise. Brain power is not just innate; it can be enhanced with usage.

When you exercise your brain, you build nerve circuits made up of nerve cells, or neurons, with axons and dendrites. The more circuits you have, the less age-related memory loss you will likely experience.

As you age, the axons and dendrites decrease in number. Dendrite growth peaks even before adolescence. After puberty, the formation of neural connections slows down. Those that we use frequently become permanent, and those that are not used are lost.

However, even the older brain is extremely flexible and can reroute and establish new connections when areas of the brain are damaged by age-related shrinkage, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or head trauma.

Brain and cognitive functioning can be increased in the following ways:

  • Playing games that make you think, such as Scrabble, chess, or bridge.
  • Doing puzzles, word and number games (I love Sudoku), and brain teasers.
  • Reading books that challenge you.
  • Studying a new language or learning a musical instrument.
  • Taking up ballroom or square dancing.
  • Listening to music.

On the other hand, one of the most deadening activities for your brain is watching television. Even educational television creates a passive brain experience, and the knowledge gained from it does not increase brain power. To stay sharp and increase your cognitive abilities, cut back on the amount of time you spend in front of the tube and take up some of the activities mentioned above instead.

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