When it comes to fitness, we immediately think of physical activities such as walking, yoga, swimming, or resistance training. Mental exercises are just as important for our overall wellness – especially for seniors. Research shows our brain actually behaves more like a muscle with the ability to change, grow, and become stronger when it's actively engaged in learning at all ages.
That means participating in brain-stretching activities can sharpen our minds, reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and promote brain health all the way into our golden years. Good news, right? Let's keep learning!
What Exactly Are Brain-Stretching Exercises?
Brain-stretching exercises are any form of activity that helps stimulate the "thinking" part of the brain, located in the frontal lobe. This area is sometimes called our "control panel" because it's in charge of our cognitive skills, memory, judgment, problem-solving, and motor functioning. And, just as we're able to strengthen the muscles in our bodies, we're able to exercise this part of our brain. When we do this, we reduce the risk of developing dementia, depression, or other cognitive conditions.
Seven Ways to Exercise Your Brain
We've pulled together a list of brain exercises you can try today – in the comfort of your own home. Any one of these activities can be highly beneficial to your mental fitness.
1. Read & Write
A study in the journal Neurology indicates regular reading and writing in late life can reduce the rate of memory decline by 32%. Not only that, but reading expands your vocabulary, which has additional mind-building benefits of its own. Need some inspiration to get started? Try joining a book club, read to your grandchildren over the phone or video, subscribe to a fun magazine, or begin penning your memoir!
2. Test Your Memory
A few simple ways to practice and build your memory skills are to make a list of grocery items and do your best to memorize it. Test yourself later to see how many items you could remember. You can also memorize lyrics to a popular song or try doing math in your head. Another good one is to resist the urge to "google" everything right away. See what you can remember on your own before turning to technology.
3. Play Games
Researchshows "brain games" can help keep seniors mentally sharp for as many as ten years longer. Whether it's a daily crossword puzzle or Sudoku, these types of games work different quadrants of the brain, which is essential for keeping your senses alert. These types of games can also be motivating, challenging, and fun. DailyCaring offers large-print crossword puzzles on their website if you need a good, free resource.
4. Learn Something New
Picking up a hobby is a terrific way to keep your mind active and boost your sense of well-being. Some examples could include learning a language or picking up an artistic or athletic pursuit. Many seniors have turned to painting, poetry, tennis, or a musical instrument they've always wanted to learn. Regardless of which hobby you choose, it's sure to benefit your brain. In fact, one study discovered older adults who learned the skills of quilting or digital photography had more memory improvement than those who performed less cognitively demanding activities.
5. Switch Hands
Are you typically a "righty" when it comes to doing tasks? Try switching it up and use your non-dominant hand for basic tasks that don't require much concentration, like eating or brushing your teeth. This small change will require extreme attention, and you'll find yourself focusing more on completing these tasks and improving your mental stamina while you're at it.
6. Seek Social Interaction
When you engage with others through stimulating conversations, you not only stay connected to those you love, but also stay mentally alert. What a great reason to call up a family member or friend and strike up a conversation. As you enjoy recalling memories or making plans for future events, you'll keep spirits high and your mind busy and engaged.
7. Remember to Relax
At the end of every good workout, there's a "cool down" that includes light stretching and relaxation. The same is needed for our brain. It's important to take a moment each day to put down the phone, turn off the television, and truly relax our mind. You could also try meditation, spending a quiet moment with your pet, or treating yourself to an at-home spa treatment. Being mindful about relaxing and reducing stress will ultimately help your mind feel at peace.
We hope this list is helpful and that you have fun "training your brain." As an independent senior living community, we encourage health and wellness in all forms. We love offering residents opportunities to participate in games like these and (socially distanced) activities that are designed to keep everyone feeling their physical and mental best.
Interested in learning more about Resort Lifestyle Communities and some of the ongoing activities we have planned? Take a virtual tour today! Use our location map to find a community near you and click "Take a Tour" to get started!