Brain Gym: How to Protect Your Cognitive Health as You Age
Many of us set aside time every few days to engage in fitness activities. From walking to swimming and biking, or perhaps even a friendly game of tennis, physical activity is an important part of healthy ageing.
But what about brain health? Are there steps you can take to protect cognitive well-being as you age? While physical activity helps keep your brain healthythere are other ways to ward off cognitive decline.
One lifestyle behaviour that’s believed to be a major contributor to a decline in brain health is getting stuck in a rut. Doing the same things the same way, day after day, just isn’t good for your brain. By feeding your brain new and different information, you provide it with stimulation. It’s like a trip to the gym for your brain.
Brain Aerobics Promotes Healthy Ageing
Experts from the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation say the best types of brain aerobics:
- Are interesting enough to keep your attention
- Engage more than one of the senses
- Offer a break from your everyday routine
If you are wondering what types of activity that translates to, here are a few ideas to explore:
- Art and Creativity: Try an art or craft project you’ve never tackled before. YouTube is full of free videos offering step-by-step tutorials, such as this watercolour demonstration or this advice on getting started with fibre art. The only expenses you’ll incur are the cost of supplies. However be warned, with every new craft you will discover two hobbies: the craft itself, and buying new things for your craft. Both of which can be a lot of fun and great for your brain.
- Books: Set a goal to read one new book each week. Borrow them from your local library, either in person or online using an app like Libby. It’s easy to use and gives you access to not only books but also magazines and newspapers, digitally. Some suburbs also have a community library box, based on an honesty system. Keep a look out for one of these on your daily stroll.
- Engage: Join a club! People are once again starting to feel safe to spend time together in person, whether it’s in book clubs, craft groups or card playing groups. Discussing a book, a new hobby or playing games together stimulates the brain while providing the added benefit of socialising.
- Playing a musical instrument: An activity that engages several senses at one time is music. It can do everything from calm you down to boost your mood. Buy a used musical instrument, such as a guitar or keyboard. If you are a complete beginner to the world of music, it may be best to take a few lessons or find a tutor. But if you already know how to read music, you will likely find online resources to help you master your new instrument.
While activities like these are important, you can take other steps to maintain a healthy brain as you grow older.
4 More Ways to Keep Your Brain Fit
1. Feed your brain healthy fuel.
It’s no surprise that your brain functions better with the right fuel. Aim for a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. The Mediterranean diet is widely believed to help reduce dementia risk. It’s part of a lifestyle that includes consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like nuts, olive oil and fatty fish such as salmon, as well as limiting sweet treats.
2. Stay active.
Exercise is good for our heart, metabolism and muscles. Studies also show that engaging in regular fitness activities can significantly help reduce stress. That’s important because chronic stress is linked to a decline in memory capacity. A daily walk for at least 30 minutes or a ride on your bike can be beneficial, especially if you change up your route each day.
3. Refresh your brain with quality sleep.
You know that feeling of being so tired your brain feels weary, too? Research shows that a good night’s sleep helps refresh your brain. It gives your body a chance to repair itself after the rigors of the day. By contrast, extended sleep deprivation can actually be damaging to cognitive health.
4. Stay hydrated.
Being dehydrated not on effects your energy levels, and of course other major organ function, but can also dramatically affect the way your brain works. Dehydration can reduce your cognition and memory, making it hard to think clearly. By keeping well hydrated and drinking plenty of water, you can help your brain keep working at it’s best.
Mayflower Supports Healthy Ageing
Whether it’s through our home care companionship service or the wide range of life enrichment programs offered in our aged care homes, Mayflower makes healthy ageing easier. Contact us to learn how we can assist you or an ageing loved one!