I was excited to read a story yesterday featured on NPR about how exercise can beat back dementia. The short article reviewed several studies on how to keep your brain fresh into old age. You need to: give up your sweet tooth, quit having a beer with friends every now and then, and take up 4 hour bike rides on the weekend. Also, you should probably isolate yourself in your home and office and focus on your work.
Kidding! The reality among all of these studies is clear: To save your brain and enrich your life, you need to have some fun. Try the following:
- Moderate exercise - What I'm telling you here probably isn't shocking, but neuroscientist Art Kramer of the University of Illinois found that keeping active physically is the number one way to keep your brain in tip-top shape. His study found increases in brain volume in the active portion of 120 elderly subjects who walked for 45 minutes, 3 times a week. Start small with exercise if it's new to you, but more importantly find an activity that you actually enjoy doing.
- Eat "brain foods"- Incorporate fish into your weekly routine, and sneak fresh fruits and veggies into every meal. I've had a lot of luck with Cooking Light recipes, even when cooking for a family that likes more traditional comfort food.
- Novelty - Playing with puzzles, learning a new language, or picking up the piano again can all impact your brain's pathways in a positive way.
- Social activity- Whether going out for a glass of wine with old friends or visiting relatives in another city, socializing and maintaining ties is essential for brain health. A study by Bryan James at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center focused on "life space", meaning how often individuals got out of the house and socialized or experienced new things or people. Those who stuck close to home were twice as likely to develop Alzheimers over five years.
The common theme is that activity keeps blood flowing to your brain, creating new cells and connecting pathways between cells. Keeping your life filled with physical activity, even while at work, entertainment and friends, and new tasks (even just brushing your teeth with your left hand instead of your right!) are small habits that have a huge payoff over time.
We don't have brain puzzles, but we do have all you need to stay active and healthy at work at TheHumanSolution.com.