Staying Fit is a Brain Game

Working out to stay fit is on a lot of people’s minds. Going to the gym, lifting weights, running, swimming—these come to mind pretty fast when someone says that they want to get in shape. However, there’s a part of the body that’s often overlooked when it comes to being the best version of yourself: the brain.

The brain is the center of everything in your body, and it has a starring role in whatever you do. Because of this, the brain should be at the top of everyone’s list of body parts that need “exercise.” Many of our daily life choices are actually detrimental to our brain health. We all need to take a step back, learn a little about our precious noggins, and do something to keep our minds sharp. Whether it is through diet, physical exercise, social time, or mental activities, there are plenty of ways to keep your brain moving and in good health.

Your diet has a key role in brain health. Like the rest of your body, your brain needs a good balance of nutrients to function properly. It needs nutritious food that encourages good blood flow, and is low in fat and cholesterol. If you eat foods that are traditionally thought of as “healthy” for your body and keeping your weight low, they are most likely good for your brain as well. Maintaining a healthy weight has been proven to keep your mind working well until a later age. There was a study conducted on 1,500 adults that discovered that obese middle age adults are twice as likely to develop dementia later in the lives. Adults that have high blood pressure and high cholesterol have six times the risk of dementia as well.

There have been studies conducted as well about foods that may help promote brain health. Fruit and vegetables with dark skins like kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, beets, eggplants, broccoli, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, plums, red grapes, cherries, etc. are all high in antioxidants, which are beneficial for good brain function. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial as well, as well as nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans.

Social interactions are also important to keeping a mind sharp. Numerous studies have shown that activities combining physical, mental and social components are most beneficial towards brain health. One study of 800 people aged 75 years or older that had been physically, mentally, and socially active during their lives proved to have a lower risk for dementia. Activities that incorporate all of these facets include volunteering, certain clubs, traveling, being active in your work place.

Mental stimulation is essential for good brain health as well. According to the Alzheimer Association website, low levels of education have been associated with higher risk and earlier onset of Alzheimer’s. Connections between brain cells are responsible for brain health, so it makes sense that the more education and mental activity someone has, the stronger the connection between brain cells will be. Activities that improve brain activity include reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles or sudokus, attending plays or lectures in the community or at Loras, gardening, or even just going for a walk.

Finally, physical exercise is necessary. Physical activity keeps blood pressure and stress low, reduces the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attacks, increases blood flow, and even stimulates the production of new brain cells. To be most effective, it should be done regularly, and for at least 30 minutes a day. In addition, doing exercises that are aerobic improves consumption of oxygen, which benefits brain functions. Just make sure that the activities you choose include protection for your head! Helmets and seatbelts are extremely important in protecting your brain.

The combination of these dietary, mental, physical and social components will help to keep your mind sharp for as long as possible, and may help to prolong the onset of dementia of Alzheimer’s. Think about it! Your brain is responsible for everything you do, so it is so important to take care of it while you still can.

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