It’s common knowledge that we all need to partake in some form of exercise to improve physical fitness, yet rarely do we think about fitness training for our brain. Brain fitness is critical too and becomes especially important as we age. Age related memory decline is normal and affects more than half of all seniors, individuals over the age of 80 being the most vulnerable.
According to the AARP, researchers have discovered that our brains are just as capable of learning in the second half of life as in the first half—in many ways, the aging brain learns and grows with each new season. Mental fitness is equally important for aging adults as maintaining cognitive health is a critical part of the aging process as it affects quality of life. If the brain remains healthy and free from disease, it can continue to function for as long as an individual lives. Sustaining brain health and continuing lifelong learning are vital parts of the aging process.
Getting Enough Exercise – A Critical Step to Maintaining Brain Health
Neuroscientists recommend dancing, swimming, knitting, gardening, and frequent use of the non-dominant leg and hand, as well ask walking a minimum of 10,000 steps daily. Physical activity should include an adequate cardiovascular workout as aerobic exercise is key to lowering the odds of Alzheimer’s by 60%. Even a daily 20 minute walk can cut the risk of stroke, a leading cause of mental disability for elderly loved ones by almost 60%. Think of physical exercise as food for your brain, “fertilizing” cells to keep them growing and functioning.
Keeping Mentally Active
As you age it becomes more important to use the brain regularly to keep it healthy. Recommended activities include playing board games, learning a new language, taking a class, doing crossword puzzles, listening to classical music and acquiring other new skills. Some studies show that doing puzzles, reading books or playing board games in leisure time cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by almost a third.
A healthy diet and balanced nutrition is also essential for the health of your body. A good diet emphasizes fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free dairy, including lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, and beans. A diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar is also recommended. Water is essential for electrical transmissions within the nervous system that make us learning, thinking, sensing and acting organisms.
Interacting With Others: Staying Social
Regularly socializing with friends, traveling, volunteering, and participating in leisure activities helps to keep your mind active and healthy. Interacting socially also helps reduce stress—which has been proven to detrimentally affect overall health. We encourage you to stay connected and get involved!
Getting Enough Sleep
It’s becoming clear that lack of sleep can negatively impact the health of your brain. Getting enough sleep should be a necessary part of your brain fitness routine—if you aren’t getting enough, allow for a few extra hours each night.
Overall Health and Other Conditions
Individuals with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, high blood pressure and other conditions are more likely to develop dementia. Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a well balanced diet, as well as controlling stress can protect your brain and keep it staying sharp. Discuss risk factors with your doctor and get regular check ups.
We’d like to share several resources that may jump start brain fitness for your senior loved one –we encourage you to share these resources with your friends and family.
Interactive sites for brain games and related information:
- MySeniorSite. Fun quizzes to exercise your brain.
- Happy Neuron. Entertaining and challenging games.
- Games for the Brain. Memory and brain games for people of all ages.