Human life expectancy has grown spectacularly over the past few decades, thanks to advances in public health and medicine. With maturity comes a wealth of experience and knowledge. Yet age also brings an increasing risk for major medical conditions. Brain problems are a particular concern as we grow older. There is a reason why cognitive fitness also known as brain fitness or brain health is making rounds in the health community. You can be many years younger than your chronological age by making certain lifestyle choices, including those that tax or challenge the brain. A study has shown that cognitive development isn’t just for children; it occurs in the adult brain, as well.
In earlier blogs, we had discussed diet changes that can boost memory. In this blog, TABIIB takes a look at the technical side of cognitive fitness, and why it is important.
What Is Cognitive Fitness?
The principles of cognitive fitness, or brain fitness, are similar to physical fitness: the state of wellbeing and health that supports the demands of day-to-day life.
Brain fitness can be defined as “the ability of the brain to learn what the organism needs to know in order to survive in a changing environment.”
The idea of brain fitness is to demonstrate that the more actively we engage our brain, the more resilient it becomes.
There are many ways to build cognitive function and support brain fitness. Here are a few of them.
1. Exercise & stay active
We can’t recommend exercising enough. Beyond helping you be physically healthy, exercise also engages the neural pathways of the brain. Exercise increases blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory. Many studies show that exercising regularly increases your ability to learn and retain information effectively.
2. Read actively
Your brain develops new neural connections when you read something that’s instructive. Rather than mere entertainment, educational reading engages your brain to think more critically. After reading or watching TV, make yourself recall what you just learned. This exercise boosts retention.
3. Learn a new skill
The best way to keep your mind occupied and active is to learn something new. Learning a new skill or working on a hobby engages your brain in a way that encourages formation of new neurons. The plasticity of the brain means that for everything new you learn, you grow its power and memory retention.
4. Solve puzzles
Sudoku, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. Switching from a puzzle that’s easy to a more difficult or unfamiliar type stimulates new brain activity, or learning, as your brain now has to generate new memories in order to master the new challenge.
Meditation might be the single greatest thing you can do for your mental and physical health. Meditating regularly not only centers your thoughts, it also gives your brain a new workout by engaging it differently. Meditation has been known to increase cognitive fitness.
6. Change up your routine, if possible.
Routines, generally, are a good thing. They provide structure and stability to our lives, and help us navigate difficult situations. There are pastimes and activities that we can do for hours at a time. These become second nature to us. But, the more things become second nature, the less we have to think about them. It’s important to challenge your brain to improve its cognitive fitness. Even simple changes such as changing your walking route or using your non-dominant hand can make a difference.
The Bottom Line
Cognitive fitness has a growing body of research supporting it. The best part? It doesn’t need any fancy equipment or exercise routines to support brain health. Taking 15-20 minutes out of each day to do something that engages your brain is the best way to promote your brain health.