” A strong body makes the mind strong.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Neuroscience tells us that physical exercise is good for the brain as well as the body. Physical activity plays an essential role in maintaining a sharp mind. According to Laura L. Carstensen, author of A long Bright Future and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, “The latest research shows that cognitive decline is not inevitable. Although the brain does shrink slightly, it continues to make new neurons and fine-tune neural connections as we age. ” If you want to reduce your lifetime risk of developing alzheimer’s disease and general dementia, aerobic exercise can help keep cognitive abilities sharp. Exercise boosts the flow of blood to the brain, resulting in the release of brain chemicals that stimulate the formation of new neurons, work to repair cell damage and strengthen the synapses that connect brain cells.
Exercise and physical activity are primary components of a healthy lifestyle. Studies show that everyone, no matter their age or health condition, can increase their brain power by exercising regularly. Exercise does not have to be strenuous to reap the benefits. Brisk walking, cycling or other activities that get the body moving and the heart pumping for 150 minutes a week will stimulate the same brain activity. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise and Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes at a time facilitates information processing and memory functions. Regular exercise can result in an increase in brain size, which may be the best memory aid of all.
Engage in novel and complex activities. Mental stimulation translates to neurophysiological growth much the same way as aerobic exercise stimulates cardiovascular health. Learning challenging new skills helps to keep your brain strong by promoting synaptic density and decreasing risk of developing neurogenerative disease. Physical exercise in conjunction with brain training increases the chances of increasing cognitive skills. Ballroom dancing or tennis are activities that include both physical and mental demands, which can have a greater impact on cognitive functioning. It appears that the best brain workouts are those that include coordination, rhythm and strategy. If you always walk the same route, change up by reversing the route or try a new one altogether.
Find an exercise partner. Exercising with a friend not only provides support to keep you on track and motivated, socializing during exercise also helps to exercise the mind. Studies show that people who engage in social interactions display higher levels of cognitive performance and that these cognitive benefit boosts may occur almost immediately. Communicating and interacting with others helps maintain strong connections that can have significant health-promoting benefits such as stress reduction and emotional bonding.
If it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain. The brain and the heart act in harmony to support life. Nearly 25% of the oxygen and blood from every heartbeat is destined for the brain. Lifestyle behaviors that benefit brain health have a similar benefit for the cardiovascular system. Contrarily, brain function may decline as heart disease risk factors increase. Risk factors that accelerate the brain function degenerative process, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, are the same risk factors that promote heart disease, which can affect blood supply to the brain and other brain-heart interactions.
Keep your brain and your heart healthy by making exercise a part of your daily routine. Exercise boosts the production of proteins that stimulate brain cell growth, brings glucose and oxygen to the brain and helps neurons work optimally. Adopting a brain healthy diet, limiting your intake of foods high in fat, dietary cholesterol and sugar, and managing your body weight are most effective at reducing risk factors when combined with physical and mental activity and social interaction.
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