Why Should You Exercise Your Brain?
Given what we know about the brain and its ability to change, there’s no question that exercise for your brain is just as important as exercise for your muscles. In fact, when exercised, your brain will react like a muscle and become stronger (don’t worry, your head won’t grow larger, just your brain cells!).
Here we’ve compiled ten natural ways to start promoting brain growth, and you don’t even have to go to the gym. They fall into two categories: Functional Brain Training Exercises and Learning New Skills.
Functional Brain Training Exercises
You don’t need a program to start exercising your brain. The most convenient and practical exercises are the ones you can do while you’re going about your everyday business:
Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand.
Change your daily routine: get dressed for work after you take your breakfast, drive a different route to work, and then sit at a different spot at the dinner table.
Memorize your grocery list and check your accuracy while shopping.
Put down the calculator and do math in your head.
Participate in athletics that utilize your brain and your body like yoga or tai chi, which help fortify brain-body connections.
Read out loud. Use an audio feedback system like Forbrain® and read your favorite book aloud. In as little as fifteen minutes per day of speaking and listening to your voice through the dynamic filter, you can improve your auditory perception and processing.
Watch a children’s program and allow yourself to think deeply about specific things; the way we all did when we were children.
Learning New Skills
The brain changes most when you learn new things. Learning new skills requires varying amounts, and challenging levels of concentration, memory and repetition. To keep your brain challenged, try the following:
Learn a new language. Not only does learning a new language require memory and attention, switching between two languages is particularly helpful in improving the brain’s attention to auditory stimuli, which directly affects concentration. It’s said that learning a new language is one way to prevent the onset of dementia.
Learn to play music. Learning to play an instrument improves alertness, strengthens pathways that coordinate auditory-tactile responses, stimulates several senses at once, and increases gray matter volume. Gray matter is the parts of the brain that are involved in muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-control. That’s a lot of brain for your buck.
Learn to make art. When we do something creative, we give the brain a chance to exercise regions focused on shape, color, and texture. Additionally, we use thought processes that we use less in our heavily logical and organizational thinking.
Seeking Help from a Professional
If you’re in need of professional help for more serious brain issues, talk to your primary care physician about your therapy options. Speech (SLP), Occupational (OT), and Physical therapists (PT) are all well-educated in re-training the brain and can customize a treatment plan based on your personal needs. Speech-Language Pathologists are especially well-versed in cognitive rehabilitation. Therapists are also able to implement home programs so that you can keep working on your own when therapy ends. Yes, it’s true: the brain also follows the use-it-or-lose-it rule.
Exercising your brain is as easy as participating in daily neuron-boosting activities like learning new skills or playing games that challenge your memory. In some cases, professional therapy is indicated. Whether you’re looking to improve your memory skills, fend off cognitive decline, or rehabilitate after brain trauma such as traumatic brain injury or stroke, brain exercises are a no-risk way to get your brain back in shape.