Brain Health: Physical Activity & Your Brain

Physical Activity
Get Moving for a Healthier, Happier Brain!

Now, more than ever before, people are taking the time to learn about the human brain and the many ways they can improve their brain health.  Brain health is about more than disease prevention (though that’s obviously important too); it’s about leading a lifestyle, supported by science, which promotes and facilitates cognitive, emotional, physical ability, spiritual health, and relational health (read: relationships).  Basically when you focus on brain health you can live your life to the fullest.

But what does it look like to actually put this into practice?  We’re devoting some upcoming posts to lay out specific suggestions for improving your brain health, based on research from Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain Health Lifestyle (see www.paulnussbaum.com).  Our first post in this series focuses on physical activity to improve your brain health.

When it comes to physical activity, studies conducted by the University of Adelaide, Australia, have shown that a single 30 minute session of physical activity benefits your brain (as reported in Medical Daily).  Researchers say physical activity makes your brain more “plastic”, which can help things like memory, motor skills and learning in general.  It also increases circulation, which helps for more efficient delivery of nutrients and the like.  That’s probably worth getting out the stationary bike for, right?  There are lots of different ways you can move to benefit your brain though!       

Here are some of our favorite suggestions for exercise to boost your brain health:

  •         Walk a mile daily
  •         Up the ante with aerobics 3 times a week (yeah, break out that old Jane Fonda video)
  •         Dance!
  •         Try some mild weight training
  •         Try Yoga, Pilates, Barre (or whatever they come out with next!)
  •         Basically, whatever you do, DON’T JUST SIT THERE!

What type of physical activity gives your brain the biggest boost?  Tell us in the comments!  Be sure to follow our blog for more lifestyle & health tips.  And, you can always benefit your brain when you play Fit Brains fun brain games!  Try Fit Brains for FREE now!

Fit Brains.  Brain Training Success.

Source: Caba, Justin. Your Brain On Exercise: 30 Minutes of Physical Activity Makes Your Brain More ‘Plastic’. Medical Daily. 2014.

Pets and Health

I am often asked about the value of having and caring for pets on general health. Research supports a positive relationship between having a pet and general health with more specific value in reducing blood pressure. Pets can create a vital role for someone as the dog, cat or other pet needs to be fed, walked, cleaned etc. Sometimes, caring for a pet can be the major role in a person’s life, particularly if someone is living alone.

A pet can also provide unconditional love, friendship, companionship, and a sense of family. Many people consider their pets significant members of the family and it is quite normal to experience grief when a pet dies.

For those who do not and cannot own a pet there are opportunities in the community to spend time with animals and to even “pet sit” for a family who may be out of town. I am also aware of some places that simply ask for the animals to be walked every so often. These are good opportunities to interact with a pet and to enjoy some of the health benefit that comes with it.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Healthy Brain Lifestyle

  • To reduce unhealthy stress levels, take up yoga, meditate, laugh, exercise, or care for a pet.
  • The easiest way to challenge your brain is to choose a “word of the day” and then work the word into a conversation.  Improving vocabulary is a great way to challenge your brain daily.
  • Ten minutes of focusing on the positive and visualizing the future each day can change the way you look at life, opening your mind to new possibilities.
  • Take advantage of your natural learning booster by believing something is important. If we try to learn without feeling interested, very little of that information will be saved in our memories. When we tell ourselves that what we’re learning is important, our brains join in, triggering our learning circuits.
  • Try making a list of ten things you are thankful for – just doing this daily can make a big difference in your everyday attitude and help manage stress. There is a definite connection between healthy living and having a positive outlook on life.

Click here for more tips to encourage a Healthy Brain Lifestyle…

Spirituality and Brain Health

Spirituality has many meanings and it may mean something different to different people. I am  referring to spirituality as one means of turning inward to a peaceful existence and to remove oneself from the hurried society that is modern life.  Prayer/worship, meditation, and relaxation procedures are just three examples of spirituality.

Early research on the human brain exposed to life threatening stressors indicates there is similar damage to the hippocampus as is known to exist in animals. Also, humans with chronic anxiety have memory problems again supporting the negative effect of stress and uncontrolled anxiety on brain function.

Research and surveys have reported the following positive effects of spirituality on health:

  • An enhanced immune system, the system that helps you defend against colds, flu, and other illnesses.
    Reports of longer, happier and healthier lives.
  • As part of the daily routine while in the hospital relates to an earlier discharge.
  • According to a past Parade Magazine Survey, 95% of the physicians in the U.S. believe spirituality is   important to the well-being of their patients.

to learn more about more about Spirituality and Brain Health

Practical Application of Brain Health to Your Life

Brain health begins with your learning the basics of your brain and how environment influences the structure and function of your brain. It is important to understand that you have the ability to promote healthy development of your brain that can not only influence the health of your brain, but also affect aspects of your life in a positive way.

Consider the following examples of how a proactive brain health lifestyle that includes (1) physical activity, (2) mental stimulation, (3) nutrition, (4) socialization, and (5) spirituality can make a positive difference:

1. Increased communication skills with your partner and peers at work. We incur divorce and financial loss at work because of communication problems.

2. Control over the inner voice that sabotages nearly every diet plan. This is an issue of inhibition, discipline, and reward that results from thoughts and action.

3. Leadership through enhancement of empathy and accurate perception of the emotions of others. Presidents get elected with such skills and our best leaders likely have this skill.

4. Relationship building and limiting unnecessary tensions. This is a big one for family dynamics.

5. Achieving success in life by setting concrete goals and developing the mental path to meet these goals. Thoughts are electrical, chemical, and perhaps magnetic with influence over behavior and outcome.

6. Creation of a better sense of self.

7. Gaining control over inner tension, stress, and our psychophysiology that can alter our longevity and quality of life.

8. Slowing time and developing an appreciation for the here and now.

9. Understanding the enormous power and consequences of our words and messages to others, particularly children.

10. Promoting neuronal development through learning and exposure of our brains to the novel and complex such as Fit Brains www.fitbrains.com