Many major media publications (Time Magazine, Newsweek, CBS, USA Today…) explain how Cogmed brain training improves memory and concentration and delays diseases like Alzheimer’s. Our neuroscience and health experts have prepared these 7 frequently asked questions: Learn How to Exercise Our Brain.
What is the importance of exercising our brains?
We can strengthen our brains’ “mental muscles” by exercising them mentally, but they deteriorate if they are not used often. Having a “brain reserve” will help us be protected against long-term problems such as Alzheimer’s (improved concentration, memory, mental clarity under stress).
How do you determine which things are guaranteed “brain drains”?
We will lose our mental energy if we are overwhelmed with anxiety and stress. Lack of novelty and stimulation is another problem associated with a repetitive and routine driven life. Learning and surviving in a new environment are made possible by our brains. To avoid anxiety, we have to embark on new tasks that are not too difficult too soon and manage stress well to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
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What are a few leisurely activities we should all do regularly?
The answer to stress management involves a 5-minute visualization consisting of deep and regular breathing and visualizing beauty in the landscape, and remembering times in the past when we have successfully achieved a goal.
You can also try subtracting 7 from 200 (193 186 179…) or a multiplication series (2,3, 4,6 6,9 8,12…) or an exponential series (2 4 8 16 32 64…). This exercise is not about becoming a math genius but about getting a fresh perspective on using our short-term memory.
Another way to remember friends’ numbers is to memorize their telephone numbers. The key to staying fresh is to try something new every day, no matter how small. Change your route to work. Introduce yourself to a new colleague. Ask a question you didn’t expect.
Does exercising our brain through crossword puzzles and sudoku have the same benefits as we are told? How? Is knitting a good brain exercise?
If we think that “It” is only one thing, the phrase “Use it or lose it” may be misleading. We know that the brain comprises many compartments, each of which has its function. When you solve a crossword puzzle, only a tiny portion of your brain is engaged. For good brain exercises, it’s essential to mix up your challenges, be diverse, and be constantly challenged. A good analogy would be cross-training our body muscles.
Crosswords, sudoku, and knitting will help us learn when we do them for the first time. The marginal benefits diminish quickly, however, once they are routine. These days, neuropsychologists recommend computer-based brain exercise software instead of paper-based exercises since it can offer a variety of new challenges all the time and always be customized to meet the challenge level.
What foods contribute to brain fitness?
As a general principle, any food that is good for our bodies will be good for our brains. There is some evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish, such as mackerel, herring, salmon, and tuna, are also beneficial. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding Ginkgo biloba. In reality, mental stimulation is the best brain food.
How does physical exercise affect our brains?
Exercise affects the rate at which new neurons are created in our brains. Therefore it is important to do physical activity. The function of new neurons is determined by how long they survive through mental exercise. Managing stress is essential, too, because it can reduce the number of new neurons and their lifespan.
The best way to stimulate our brains is to combine physical and mental exercise through active learning.
The difference comes down to 2 things: a) Habits for long-term brain stability, such as eating right, exercising, managing stress, and learning constantly. Active learning stimulates your brain and keeps it challenged; b) Short-term training targets one or more specific areas (memory,…). You need a computerized training program that assesses where you are and “stretches” your existing capacities.
Walking often and going to the gym for targeted exercises complement physical fitness. In the same way, they are both essential.