October 15, 2019 —We all know it’s important to exercise our bodies — but did you know it’s equally important to exercise your brain?
“Our brain chemistry changes as we age,” says Dr. Savleen Juneja, Kendal at Lexington’s Director of Rehab. “It can take longer for the brain to make connections and complete simple tasks, like learning a new person’s name.”
However, working to improve your brain fitness can help you better meet the various cognitive demands of daily life as you age. Common activities, like completing a task, learning a new task and remembering names, may start to feel more difficult, but there are activities you can do to help. By challenging your cognitive skills, you can stimulate your brain — just like you stimulate your muscles through exercise.
“Brain fitness exercises can help speed up brain neuronal connections,” Savleen says. Here are her top five recommendations for better brain fitness:
Eating a Healthy Diet
We often hear about eating a heart-healthy diet, but did you know that your diet also impacts your brain health? Luckily, many of the foods that are good for your heart are also good for your brain. Aim for a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight and controlling your blood pressure are also good for your brain.
Getting Physical Exercise
“Research has shown that 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week aids in both heart and brain health,” Savleen says. That means that getting blood pumping to the brain by incorporating physical exercise into your daily routine can literally help you process information more clearly.
Completing Daily Brain Exercises
As with anything, practice makes perfect. There are small activities you can do daily that improve how your brain processes information. Here are a few examples:
- Having daily conversations with another person
- Completing a puzzle, whether jigsaw, crossword or other problem solving activity.
- Practice planning ahead, even if it’s something as simple as playing a game of chess or planning an outing.
- Challenge your memory by watching the news and writing down headline stories, then trying to remember them later
- Use your non-dominant hand to do simple activities like brushing your teeth or writing a note
- Learn a new skill, like a craft or a card game
All of these activities are easily done as part of your daily routine and can have a big impact on your cognition. Pick a few to try out and see what it feels like to challenge your brain!
Using Your Senses
Yes, you use your senses every day, but purposefully using your senses is a great way to stimulate your brain. For instance, spend a few moments with your eyes closed and focus on all the sounds around you. Or, identify objects in a box using only touch, rather than sight. By purposefully spending time engaging one sense over the others, you can enhance all of your senses and strengthen your brain function.
Changing Your Daily Routine
“Over time, your brain adjusts to the activities you do daily,” Savleen says. “We can reengage your brain by changing the order you do your activities or changing the activities themselves.” Even small changes can have a positive effect on your brain activity and function, such as taking a different route on your daily walk or alternating watching television and reading in the evenings.
However, Savleen also stresses that older adults don’t have to take on their brain fitness alone, and encourages Kendal residents to talk to their rehab team. “Seeking professional advice to analyze your unique situation can result in simple solutions,” she says. “The rehab team is specially trained to help adults with a broad range of conditions that affect cognitive function.”
Interested in learning more about rehabilitation services at Kendal at Lexington? Call 888-467-6115 for more information.