Tag Archives: exercise your brain

Brain Better than Calculator

books.jpgI have the wonderful opportunity of traveling the nation and internationally to speak about the wonderful miracle of the human brain. During my public presentations I always describe the brain as the most complicated, integrated, and miraculous system ever designed in the history of the Universe! I then scream from the mountaintops that we need to understand that our greatest moments of innovation, creativity, cures for illness, and ability to communicate in ways we only dream about now will be accomplished by learning how to tap into the greatness of our brain!

It is from this context that I read my local newspaper to find the following headline “Brains beat buttons for learning mathematics.” New research finds that third graders learn multiplication better when they use their brains before they use a calculator. The results of this study can be found in the next issue of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and the article is published in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Sept 4, 2008).

We have known for some time that learning is enhanced when the person doing the learning “does it on his or her own.” This is another way of saying “uses his or her brain.” We also know that the more one is exposed to a particular stimulus the more deeply they will remember or encode it. This again reflects the ability and efficiency of the human brain. The calculator is an external device that appears to have a secondary and reinforcing purpose to what the brain has already learned.

From a brain health perspective, we as a society will be better off when we use our brains first and rely on technological devices (invented by the human brain) in secondary roles. The former involves stimulation of the cortex that will develop brain reserve. A reliance on technologies such as a calculator will cause the brain to use the subcortex which is more rote, passive and procedural in its processing.

By using our cortex in complex pursuits we will always be on a path to brain health (brain fitness, brain games). Reliance on passive behaviors such as using a calculator will put us on a path to rote processing with less health benefit.

So… tonight I will remind my sons to use their brain first to solve the math homework as I have a personal interest in their learning and in their brain health!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Health in our Home

couch.jpgBrain health can occur wherever brains exist! The home is a setting that is often neglected regarding brain health. Ask yourself the question….is my home a setting for brain health?

Turning to Dr. Nussbaum’s brain health lifestyle we know there are five factors or slices of the brain health pie. These include (1) socialization, (2) physical activity, (3) mental stimulation, (4) nutrition, and (5) spirituality. You can apply the activities within each of these brain health slices in your home and a brain health residence will be born.

Consider the following brain health for the home tips:

1. Increase the number of social events in your home. This includes meetings, parties, and simply having friends or family over. Remember brain health is a lifespan issue so all age groups need a little attention and love (Socialization).

2. Increase the number of meals that include fish (salmon, herring, sardines), unsalted nuts including walnuts, fruits and vegetables. Eat at least one meal a day when the family and friends sit down and spend quality time together. Eating with utensils also promotes healthier food consumption and less caloric intake (Nutrition).

3. Get the family on a regular exercise program that includes daily walks, some form of aerobic exercise, dance, gardening and even knitting. You want to promote physical activity and increased cardiovascular activity (Physical Activity).

4. Have everyone in the family engage in mental exercise on a daily basis. This should involve something that is novel and complex (not passive and rote). Play a family board game, complete a Fit Brains game online, write a short story, talk and debate world affairs and even take a trip as a family to a new area of your region (Mental Stimulation).

5. Make sure the family is getting plenty of sleep, take time to slow down and simply have time to be rather than to complete some task. Relaxation procedures, meditation, prayer and yoga can help slow the world down. Give yourself 30 minutes a day to do what you want. Remove some of the stress from your life (Spirituality).

These are some simple tips for turning your own home into a brain health residence!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Activity and Breast Cancer Survival

pinkribbon.jpgWhile it might seem odd to write about breast cancer on a site dedicated to brain health, there are two compelling reasons to do so: First, many of us have a loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and second, activity is one of the major components of the brain health lifestyle.
A recent study conducted at the Yale School of Medicine indicates women who stay active after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a better chance of surviving the disease. This includes those who take up exercise for the first time after diagnosis and even if the women just do a little exercise. This study reinforces many other studies that link exercise to reduction in risk of breast cancer.
Women who got the equivalent of two to three hours of brisk walking each week in the year before they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 31 percent less likely to die of the disease than women who were sedentary before the diagnosis. Further, two years after diagnosis, women who did any recreational activities at all had nearly 65% lower risk of dying then women who were inactive at that point. Women who got at least two hours of brisk walking in weekly reduced their risk of death by 67%. Perhaps most glaring is the study’s finding that women who decreased their physical activity after diagnosis were actually four times more likely to die of breast cancer than those who remained sedentary.

In all, exercise is an important lifestyle behavior for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Health Tips for Going Back to School

school.jpg Dr. Nussbaum’s brain health lifestyle involves five major components: these include (1) physical activity, (2) mental stimulation (brain fitness, brain games), (3) spirituality, (4) nutrition, and (5) socialization. By integrating the research-based activities from each of these components, we can generate some good ideas for the young student going back to school this year.

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is critical to any student interested in getting good grades. Sleep is an important brain health behavior that falls into the spirituality slice of the brain health pie because it helps the brain to slow down. Interestingly, sleep is a very busy time for the brain because information gets consolidated (encoded more deeply) during specific parts of the sleep cycle. As such, the developing brain of a young child will learn more efficiently and deeply on a good night’s sleep.

2. Eat a Good Breakfast

This is more easily said then done. Our schools typically begin the day very early so it is hard for students to get up early enough to eat. However, breakfast is such an important meal for the brain because it helps to nourish the brain which can promote enhanced attention, learning and memory. Breakfast cereals have plenty of vitamins. Fruit is a great food to consume at any time during the day because it provides energy and is an antioxidant which is healthy.

3. Develop a Routine for Studying

A brain appreciates a routine and studying is one behavior that can be organized and placed on a regular schedule. Homework can be considered a child’s work and prioritized ahead of playtime with the neighborhood children, television, or video games. Working out a reasonable agreement with your child for one hour of study time after school when complete attention will be devoted to the brain focused on homework is needed. During this study time do not be afraid to play some soft classical music in the background as some research suggests enhanced learning can occur.

4. Remain Physically Active

Children that remain physically active tend to score well on tests. This is most likely due to the benefit of exercise and the fact that 25% of the blood and nutrients from each heartbeat go directly to the brain. Providing your child some time to exercise, run, and play is important so long as it gets prioritized and scheduled around homework.

5. Reinforce Good Grades

We all like to get praise and we will repeat behavior that gets praised. You cannot celebrate good grades or a good test score enough. One idea for a positive reward is to permit your child to socialize with friends in a special gathering. Socialization and being around others is healthy for the brain and fun all at once.

Best of brain health this school year!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Health in the Corporate World

boardroom1.jpgBrain health has matured to the point of being ready for introduction and implementation in the work setting and across the corporate world. Enough research exists to demonstrate the human brain is a dynamic system capable of being shaped for health across the lifespan. Dr. Nussbaum’s five factor brain health lifestyle is an approach that is easily applied to any corporate setting. CEOs and companies interested in the wellbeing of their employees should consider adding health of the brain to their wellness program!

Here are some quick tips to begin the process of implementing brain health into their corporate culture.

1. Educate the entire workforce including the leadership team on the basics of the human brain and what research tells us about how to keep your brain healthy. Consider the costs of dementia related care on your workforce and the fact that a high percentage of your workforce is concerned about their own brain health and this becomes a “no brainer” for inclusion in the company wellness program. Brain health should also be part of the orientation program for new employees.

Dr. Nussbaum is available to come to your company and speak to the leadership and workforce about brain health. It is critical to explain the why behind the what regarding brain health and a brain health lifestyle.

2. Integrate the five slices (e.g. brain fitness) of Dr. Nussbaum’s brain health lifestyle into your work culture. This can occur one step at a time with incentives for the employees to engage in the behaviors thought to promote brain health.

A. Work with the dietary staff in the cafeteria to promote brain healthy foods. This includes increases in fruits, vegetables, fish products, nuts, and juices. Reduce the trans fatty acids and fatty foods found in the vending machines

B. Encourage the employees to begin a regular exercise routine that is focused on walking and aerobic exercise. Teach the employees that each time the heart beats 25% of the blood goes directly to the brain! Every employee should be given a company pedometer to wear at work for the purpose of counting steps. We need approximately 10,000 steps daily. Begin interdepartmental competitions on number of steps taken per week or month.

C. Educate and encourage your workforce to learn how to use relaxation exercises and meditation to reduce stress. An overly stressed brain does not learn or process well and this will reduce productivity. Teach the workforce the importance of prioritizing oneself during the day and to identify what his or her major stressors are.

D. Encourage team and company socials to recreate and have fun. Socialization is an important lifestyle for brain health as it promotes mental stimulation while reducing brain passivity through isolation. Helping identify which employees are prone to loneliness and depression can also help to maximize brain function for the work setting. Socialization and opportunities for laughter and dance can help.

E. Encourage and incentivize creativity and mental stimulation (brain fitness, brain games) during the work day. Include computer stations with Fit Brains for staff to engage in daily brain exercise. Promote board game competitions, book clubs, and creative writing or story telling in the work setting.

3. Develop critical measures of outcome and after three months determine if implementation of brain health into the work setting has helped employees (1) feel better about themselves, (2) increase cognitive function, (3) promote emotional satisfaction, (4) increase physical activity, (5) reduced time off, (6) improve quality of life, (7) lower weight, reduce total cholesterol and reduce glucose, etc.

4. Begin the process of including family members in the brain health program as another benefit of working for your company.

5. Identify a core brain health team that keeps the brain health culture alive with semiannual or annual brain health events for the company and families.

This is a start for making your implementing brain health into your work culture.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.