For many years you have known that physical exercises has long-term benefits to keep your body young, healthy and strong. Exercising improves your physical body condition by enhancing cardiovascular endurance, strengthening muscles, and building strong bones (weight-bearing exercise), flexibility, balance, and motor control (Christie, et al., 2017) (Damrongthai, et al., 2021). You have also known that a healthy and balanced lifestyle, consists of a wholesome nutrition, good sleep, and essential supplementation. But did you know that you could also exercise your brain to keep it young and boost its overall performance? Brain exercises are particularly important in e.g., strengthening your mind, improving your memory and attention, helping with flexible thinking, perception, or processing speed. Because over time, we not only lose muscle, but brain cells as well – simply said “use it or lose it”!
Brain boosting exercises are activities that engage your cognitive skills. Cognitive skills influence cognitive performance, which can vary from day to day due to sleep, emotional state, work-life balance, nutrition, or even prolonged exposure to stress etc. When you train you brain, you boost your cognitive performance, and this is where the difference lies between a “good” state of functioning and a “great” one. Research is consistent that one of the most effective prevention mechanisms against dementia lies in increasing brain and cognitive reserve capacity. Hence following a balanced lifestyle that is boosting your brain health coupled with brain exercises performed on a regular basis, you can increase your brain’s cognitive performance.
There are several types of brain boosting exercises that improve a range of cognitive abilities to help keep your mind lithe and sharp.
- TRAIN YOUR BODY TO KEEP YOUR MIND HEALTHY
Good old physical exercises like resistant training, general fitness or running have been reported to significantly enhance information-processing speed, attention, memory formation, and specific types of executive function (planning, flexible thinking, inhibitory control, problem-solving, decision-making, reasoning, and planning (Glatt, et al., 2021).
Mind-body exercises combine physical exercise and intellectual experience like martial arts, yoga, tai chi, or Feldenkrais reduce stress by encouraging deep breathing and implementing mindful movement. They improve overall cognitive performance with special focus on attention and memory skills and executive functioning (Glatt, et al., 2021).
Dancing has been viewed as a multipurpose physical activity that includes cardiovascular elements as well as has coordinative and cognitive requests as memorizing steps and movements, audio-visual cues with processing speed, steps planning, etc.
- numerical exercises
When it comes to boosting your cognitive skills, numeracy will surely boost your executive functions as logical thinking. Try this brain boosting activity: start with 100 and subtract 7, until you reach the lowest number to 0. Repeat is 3 times and play with it subtracting larger numbers, or starting from a number as great as 1000. It’s up to you. Observe what happens during each exercise- is it easier? More difficult?
- BOARD GAMES
People who are engaged in mental activities during the life course and play games such as cards and board games (chess, scrabble, word games, mazes or jigsaw puzzles) are more likely to stay mentally sharp with better thinking skills in later life. Also, people who increase game playing in later years were found to have experienced less decline in their seventies, mainly in memory function and thinking speed (Altschul, et al., 2020).
Try this activity: count the total number of triangles in the figure below. What is your answer?
It is scientifically proven that mindfulness meditation is intimately linked to improvements of attention and cognitive flexibility.
Try this: 5 minutes per day of slowing down, and shifting your attention to your breath, observing your inhalations and exhalations. This activity will create a good foundation to improve your focus and attention.
- DUAL-TASK TRAINING
At Sparkd we know that cognitive and physical health are inseparable, therefore our training programs include physical exercise, cognitive work, and visual or audio stimuli. Dual-task training is best for maximising physical and brains’ overall cognitive functions: you can work on your processing speed, attention, memory, or higher executive functions while doing your squats or lunges.
Try this brain activity: add a numerical game to your physical exercise, e.g. perform 20 squats at the same time with a numeracy task: subtract 7 starting from 100 (see point 2 above) until you complete your physical exercise. How was it?
The technologies we use at Sparkd train the brain to be agile, adaptable, and more efficient in processing and comprehending complex, diverse information – resulting in greater focus and productivity. Hence cognitive training will target and challenge cognitive functions as working memory, attention, and executive functions all of which are critical for maintaining situational awareness and executing effective decision making. We need them to translate the knowledge into making decisions and interpret the world around us. These functions play an important role in cognitive processes and thanks to them we make choices and decisions forming the life we live in.
Damrongthai Chorphaka [et al.] Benefit of human moderate running boosting mood and executive function coinciding with bilateral prefrontal activation [Journal]. – [s.l.] : Nature Scientific Reports, 2021. – Vol. 11. – 22657.
Gregory Nicole Forbes Health [Online]. – 9 July 2021. – November 2021. – https://www.forbes.com/health/healthy-aging/brain-exercises/.
Christie Gregory J. [et al.] Do Lifestyle Activities Protect Against Cognitive Decline in Aging? A Review [Journal]. – [s.l.] : Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2017. – Vol. 9.
Glatt Ryan and McEwen Sarah Brain Health Trainer. – 2021.
Altschul Drew M and Deary Ian J Playing Analog Games Is Associated With Reduced Declines in Cognitive Function: A 68-Year Longitudinal Cohort Study [Journal]. – [s.l.] : The Journals of Gerontology, 2020. – 3 : Vol. 75.