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10 Ways to Exercise Your Brain
For overall health, exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body. When you exercise your brain, you form new neural connections, strengthen old ones and even build a “reserve” that may protect you against the symptoms of dementia. Though physical exercise can be a necessary chore for some, mental exercise can be entertaining, stimulating and engaging.
Become a Lefty or a Righty
Perform tasks with your non-dominant hand; for instance, using the computer mouse or brushing your teeth. Try tying your shoelaces the opposite way. According to the Franklin Institute, these kinds of exercises can strengthen current neural connections and even forge new ones.
Reading flexes your brain muscles, whether reading for pleasure or for information. Along with other leisure activities, reading can help build up a “cognitive reserve” to delay the onset of dementia, according to a 2001 study by Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas and colleagues.
Crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles–any kind of word or number puzzles–will exercise your brain, specifically, the left brain, according to cognitive training center LearningRx. Add a twist for more effective brain exercise; for example, solve a crossword puzzle with a hidden theme.
Play Strategy Games
Strategy games will exercise your right brain, help you look at the big picture and think creatively. Play board games such as chess, Monopoly and Othello, or choose electronic strategy games on a computer or gaming system.
Change Your Routine
Don’t just change your routine, but change it in a novel way, says Lawrence Katz, professor of Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. He calls these exercises Neurobics. Like changing handedness, changing your routine activates underused brain connections. Katz suggests taking a shower with your eyes closed or rearranging your office or desk.
Learn a Foreign Language
By learning a different language, you will activate a part of your brain you haven’t used since you learned to talk. A 2007 Canadian study at Toronto’s York University found that using more than one language seemed to increase blood supply to the brain to keep nerve connections healthy.
Enjoy the Sound of Music
Learn to play an instrument. Listen to a different kind of music. Memorize the lyrics of your favorite songs and sing them through the day. For a Neurobic twist, activate two senses at once: Katz suggests listening to music and smelling flowers.
Exercise Your Body
Physical exercise promotes brain health. It increases blood flow to the brain and improves attention, reasoning and memory, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
Exercise your brain by visiting your friends. A 2006 study by Dr. David Bennett of Rush University Medical Center found that having a social network provided protection against the clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Find a New Hobby
Challenge your brain to learn new skills, things you have never done before. If you’re not an artist, learn to draw or paint. If you play the piano, learn to play a guitar. Find something new and interesting to do to keep your brain active and engaged.
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