Just like any other body part, the brain needs regular exercise to stay healthy and function properly — and it’s never too late to start taking care of your brain health. A healthy brain means that you are better able to remember things, concentrate, and process information quickly. From puzzles and games to diet and exercise, there are a variety of ways to maintain and improve your cognitive functions. Let’s look at some of them.
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Learning new languages
Just 20% of US students learn a new language, although studies have shown that learning new languages has a plethora of benefits for the brain, improving memory, cognitive skills, and even staving off dementia.
One of the most significant benefits of learning new languages is that it helps to keep the brain healthy and active. Just like any muscle in the body, the brain needs to be worked out on a regular basis in order to stay strong and function properly. And what better way to work out your brain than by learning something new?
As you learn new words and grammar rules, diving into a new language can also help improve your memory. This is because when you learn a new language, you are effectively creating new neural pathways in the brain. These pathways help to store information more efficiently, which means that you are more likely to remember things that you have learned in a foreign language. Learning a new language also helps you communicate better and empathize with others, as you learn more about a different culture.
Learning new languages has been shown to stave off dementia and other age-related cognitive decline. This is because bilingualism (or being proficient in more than one language) has been linked with a delay in the onset of dementia symptoms. Finally, learning a new language can be a fun little hobby and can even make you a more competitive job candidate, especially in fields where another language can be a bonus.
Playing chess and other puzzle games
There are many benefits to playing chess, including improving brain health. Chess is a complex game that requires strategic thinking, visualizing, calculating, and planning. This can help improve your problem-solving skills and memory. Chess also encourages critical thinking and creativity. It has even been linked to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Nowadays, playing chess (or simply practicing chess puzzles) has never been easier. There are a million and one websites where you can do it for free, and a virtually endless supply of books you can buy or lend from a library.
Puzzles can also help keep your mind sharp. They can also help improve memory, attention span, and problem-solving skills. Solving puzzles also improve your creativity, as many puzzles require you to think outside the box. They can also be a social activity, where you practice and bond with your friends and family, or a relaxing activity, helping you ease off some of that stress gathered throughout the day.
Learning to play a new instrument
Learning to play a new instrument can make your brain more efficient and help it perform better, several studies have shown; one such study, conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich, found that people who were consistent in learning how to play a new musical instrument over the course of six months had increased neural connectivity in certain areas of the brain compared to those who did not receive musical training.
“Our findings show that learning to play a musical instrument promotes structural brain plasticity,” said study author Simone Kühn in a press release. “This might be one reason why playing music has such positive effects on mental and cognitive health.” This type of training could be used as a tool to promote brain plasticity in healthy adults, and it might also be beneficial for people with neurological conditions.”
It’s not only your ‘artistic’ part of the brain that benefits from this. Playing an instrument improves your coordination and fine motor skills as you have to use your hands precisely; it also helps boost memory and cognitive skills as you remember the songs and techniques you’re learning. Playing music can even be therapeutic, as it’s been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. Overall, learning to play a new instrument can be a rewarding and enriching experience that can provide both physical and mental benefits.
For all the progress we’ve made, reading is still the fastest way a human can absorb information. Reading is a great way to keep your brain healthy and improve your cognitive skills and reading regularly is pretty much like going to the gym for your brain — mental stimulation through reading can help keep our minds sharp as we age and improve our ability to absorb, process, and think about information. Obviously, you’ll also learn new things as you go along.
There are many different ways that reading can keep your brain healthy. For example, reading can help improve your memory, focus, and concentration. Additionally, reading can lower your stress levels and help you sleep better. All of these benefits can lead to a healthier brain overall.
Several large-scale studies have shown that people who read regularly are significantly less likely to experience a decline in their mental function over a 12-year period than those who didn’t read at all. The researchers believe that reading may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia by keeping the brain active and engaged. In fact, another study found that people who read regularly had a 32% lower risk of developing dementia than those who didn’t read.
Staying in shape
It’s hard to have a healthy mind without a healthy body, and having a healthy diet and exercising regularly have both been shown to help maintain a healthy brain. A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables (and low in red meat and processed foods) can provide the brain with the energy and fitness it requires, without burdening it unnecessarily. Meanwhile, exercising regularly can improve the blood flow to the brain and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
It even goes beyond that. Exercising regularly has been shown to help support the growth and survival of brain cells — and on the other hand, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet can contribute to a decline in cognitive function and brain fitness.
Overall, a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise can be a powerful way to support brain health and cognitive function.
Ultimately, there are many other ways to keep your mind healthy — these are just a few of the common practices and habits you can deploy with ease in your life to keep your brain in shape without breaking the bank or having to go to great lengths.