Exercise is not only for keeping your body in shape, but for training your brain as well! New and exciting studies show the benefits of neuroplasticity training, which incorporates mental drills into physical training, to combat the deteriorative effects of aging on the brain.
Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the brain to reorganize or reprogram itself in response to stimuli or experience. This is an ability of the brain that continues even into old age. Exercises in neuroplasticity training address different types of aging and involve the stimulation of both sides of the brain. Below are some drills to help train your brain to age gracefully.
Training Your Brain
Exercise combats age-related memory loss. Get double the health benefits by training your brain while you exercise your body!
For each task, select an appropriate exercise movement. It should be moderate and suitable to your ability and needs. The movements could range from simple heel lifts or marching in place, to more difficult moves like lunges or burpees. Multiplanar movements enhance neuroplasticity training.
Task 1. Psychological age training
Psychological age is our ability to use the brain to accomplish tasks that demonstrate independence and self-efficacy. This task exercises various areas of the brain.
Start with your selected physical movement, such as seated heel lifts. While moving, do the following:
- Say your favorite color aloud.
- Spell it forward, then backward.
- Say how many letters the word has (Example: green=5).
- Do you have this number in your telephone number? If you do, say the section of your phone number that contains that number. Repeat that numerical answer backward. If the number is not in your phone number, repeat a section of your phone number forward and then backwards.
Task 2. Biological age training
Biological age training addresses physiological issues, to lower blood sugar or cholesterol levels, for example.
- As you do a movement with the right side of the body, recite the name of a fruit or vegetable. Do this for 1 minute.
- As you do a movement with the left side of the body, recite any word in another language. If you don’t know any other language, you can use borrowed words for food such as lasagna, enchilada, sukiyaki, sauerkraut, etc. Do this for 1 minute.
Task 3. Functional age training
To help you accomplish tasks that are usually needed as dictated by demographic or culture. It involves problem-solving together with movement.
Think of an everyday task and some problem related to it. Make a shopping list for a birthday party, for example. The theme is red so everything you buy should be red.
- As you do your movements, name five red fruits or vegetables to buy for the party.
- This time, name five red things, other than fruits or vegetables, that you’d buy for the party at the supermarket.
Task 4. Social age training
The movements and tasks are done in small groups to help develop interactions within a cultural framework.
This is to be done by twos, with partners holding hands. One person acts as the leader who walks or marches, changing direction from time to time, while asking questions or giving instructions. The partner answers the questions as he follows the movements. After 3-5 minutes, roles are reversed.
The leader gives the first 4 digits of his or her phone number and then asks the partner to do the following:
- Recite the digits you just heard.
- Recite the digits backward.
- Add up the digits, two at a time, and sum a grand total.
- Spell each digit forward.
- Spell each digit backward.
How Exercise Helps Your Brain
Physical exercise is not only important for your body’s health, it also helps your brain stay sharp.
Your brain needs exercise just like the rest of your body — it works on the same “use it or lose it” principles. Reading, puzzles, memory games, and mental activities like chess can help keep your mind in tip-top shape. But you will get an additional brain boost by hitting the gym. Physical exercise has positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts: neurological, molecular, circulatory, and emotional. According to the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even a 20-minute exercise session improves information processing and memory function in your brain.
Exercise increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to your brain. It also increases the release different hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.
Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections in important areas of the brain. Research from UCLA demonstrates that exercise makes it easier for the brain to grow new neural connections.
Exercise gives your brain the same antidepressant effects associated with “runner’s high,” which will also lower your stress hormones. Exercise has also been associated with more growth or brain cells in the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory).
Not surprisingly, anything that is good for your heart and muscles is also good for your brain!
If you’d like some personal help with exercise and nutrition, contact Basics and Beyond fitness & nutrition to schedule a time to talk about what kind of help would work best for you. We work with clients in-person and online!