15 Fitness Moves for Your Body Brain & Memory

TWO TYPES OF FITNESS

The exciting thing about brain training is that you get to engage in two different types of fitness programs.

 

PHYSICAL
The first is the one we are pretty much all familiar with – physical exercise. And while there are significant benefits to the brain, physical exercises are generally focused on the body.

 

MEMORY AND BRAIN
There is also a second type of fitness program that has come into play. It focuses on the brain, and activities and exercises designed to enhance individual brain skills, strengthen the brain and keeping it as young as possible, for as long as possible.

 

FITNESS BENEFITS

Great Memory Challenge Fitness and your memory and brain

 

Neurogenesis
Exercise encourages neurogenesis or the birth of new brain cells.

 

Neuroplasticity
It also plays a role in neuroplasticity, the development of new connections.  Both of these – neurogenesis and neuroplasticity – science shows are propelled to a large part by the levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF which is an important protein and a contributory factor to the growth of nerve cells. Exercise increases our level of BDNF.

 

Control of Inflammation
Studies say exercise helps control inflammation which is increasingly linked to dementia and the dreaded Alzheimer’s.

 

Stress Protection
Offers protection against stress hormones and also has a positive effect on immune cells.

 

Cognitive Flexibility
Helps develop cognitive flexibility which is an important executive function

 

Stimulates Creativity
Research shows that regular fitness stimulates creativity.

 

Boosts Mental Processes
Boosts mental processes such as planning, scheduling, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, and from my perspective, the all-important memory function.

 

Increase Flow of Blood and Oxygen
Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, which in turn nourishes more cells and removes more waste.

 

Improves Memory Function
It improved memory function, attention and resilience helping us adapt to challenges and problems which might come up in our daily lives.

 

Relief from Insomnia
The Sleep Foundation suggests that just a single bout of moderate exercise such as walking was found to help people with insomnia get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.

 

Reduces Risk of Brain Shrinkage
A compelling study from Cambridge University found that obesity put our brains at risk of shrinkage as we got older. Researchers determined that those who practice fitness and remain leaner in middle age had more white brain matter than those who were overweight. An obese study participant at age fifty had the same amount of white matter seen in someone ten years older. White matter is important for cognitive function.

 

Improved Cardiovascular Health
There is a saying, ‘What’s good for the heart, is good for the brain’ and like many sayings, this one has a lot of truth in it. By improving your cardiovascular health through fitness you are also benefiting your brain and cognitive functions, including memory.

 

WHERE TO WORK OUT? ‘GO GREEN’

Great Memory Challenge exercise outside

Studies indicate that fresh air can add a layer of “nature therapy” to a workout with some impressive results: improvements in cognition, creative thinking, attention, focus, and memory. The outdoors had the added effect of lowering inflammation as well as levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Studies also found less fatigue coupled with a positive jump in mood and a feeling of overall satisfaction after outdoor workouts.

 

 

15 FITNESS MOVES FOR YOUR BODY, BRAIN & MEMORY

 

#1 STAND UP

Scientific and academic media regularly warn about the physical and neural negatives resulting from sitting for hours without a single stand-up break. Just standing up increased oxygen and stimulated blood flow – good for both the body and the brain. Try adding a stand-up riser to your office desk. Simple.

 

#2 WASH THE DISHES

A study, published in Neurology found that exerting yourself even by doing chores was a brain plus. Daily tasks like washing dishes by hand, taking out the trash, dusting, running the vacuum, scrubbing the tub, could provide brain benefits and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

 

#3 CLIMB SOME STAIRS

Great Memory challenge fitness climb some stairs

Kinesiologists from McMaster University found that simple super quick sessions of stair-climbing can have significant benefits to the heart.  Stair climbing can be done anywhere. No more excuses like no time, no equipment, or no money.

 

Quick Tip – Get off the elevator a couple of floors below your destination and take the stairs.

 

#4 JUMP ROPE

A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology determined that a jump rope can get your blood pumping, plus it’s great for strengthening your bones too.

 

#5 TAKE A WALK

Great Memory Challenge take a walk

Walking opportunities are ubiquitous – they are everywhere. You can find plenty of places to walk. You could walk.

Around your neighborhood.

Around your home.

To your favorite bookstore

To the shopping mall

To the grocery store.

 

In fact, studies abounded on the neuroprotective benefits of aerobic exercise against diminishment of brain function as we age. There were real brain benefits to something as simple as a brisk walk.

 

Quick Tip – Invest in a treadmill and walk anytime. Add a pedometer to count your steps and keep yourself motivated. Make your goal the American Heart Association’s recommended 10,000 steps a day.

 

#6 RESIST

Great Memory Challenge fitness

While there isn’t as much research on the benefits to the brain of resistance training as there is on aerobics,  there is enough to appreciate the benefits of adding resistance training to your personal program if you want to enhance your cognitive powers.

 

First, resistance training improved long and short-term memory, increased attention span, and improved the functioning of the brain’s central executive.Not only that, but some researchers found that resistance training benefits equaled those of aerobic exercise and could last up to a year.

 

Quick Tip – Pick up a couple of hand weights, turn on the TV, find a channel that runs resistance training programs and get started.

 

#7 CROSS BODY EXERCISES

Crossbody exercises also called crossing the midline or cross laterals are exercises are designed to stimulate brain function, develop motor skills, enhance spatial awareness and improve communication between both halves of the brain. To get started, simply imagine a vertical line running down the middle of your body from your chin. The idea is to cross over that midline.

 

What you can start with are simple windmills – touching your left knee with your right hand while sitting straight in your chair. Then repeat the same motion but this time crossing over so that your left hand touches your right knee. When you’re feeling more agile, reach lower and touch the opposite foot with its opposite hand.

 

#8 FINGER FITNESS

We sometimes get so focused on giving arms and legs a workout, that we forget that our hands and fingers are also linked to our brain. Finger dexterity can build brain fitness too. We should spend some time doing things that require both concentration and dexterity. It may seem old-fashioned but building models, knitting, embroidery, painting pictures or building custom furniture all give our brains a workout.

 

Quick Tip – Get a basic model building kit or a ball of yarn and some knitting needles and start giving your brain and your memory a workout.

 

#9 DANCE

Great Memory Challenge Dance for fitness

Dancing unites body and brain through movement and pattern into a dynamic duo. We now know that aerobic activity, like walking, is beneficial to the brain. We also know that performing complex activities is beneficial to the brain.

 

What makes dancing so special is that it combines the benefits of both aerobic and complex into a single form of exercise – one that engages both our heart and brain systems – the cardiovascular and neural. This combination helps create more synaptic connections – neuroplasticity – strengthening and increasing our neural networks.

 

And as we practice and repeat these new complex movements we are also strengthening the myelin sheath around our nerve fibers which in turn helps our brain send signals between neurons faster and more efficiently. The degradation of this sheath has been cited as one of the causes of the age-related diminishment of brain function.

 

Add the social element, the environmental novelty, and the music, and you have an exercise that helps keep you young from the top of your head to the tips of your twinkling toes.

 

Quick Tip – Find a local dance club and try a few lessons.

 

#10 CROSSWORD PUZZLES

Just a few minutes a day can provide a good challenge for your brain. You can stimulate your ability to retrieve the information you already have, plus you can encourage new learning by looking up and understanding the meanings of words you don’t know. There are plenty of ways to get started – everything from books, magazines to apps.

 

#11 JUGGLING

Don’t laugh. Juggling is a really good brain workout. An article published in the journal Nature found that individuals who learned to juggle developed structural changes in those brain areas that are associated with the processing and storage of complex visual motion. Their brains underwent neuroplasticity.

 

Quick Tip – Invest in a beginners juggling kit. Try it. It’s quite a challenge in the beginning, but lots of fun while you are getting some memory and brain fitness in.

 

#12 PLAY THE ‘BRAIN GPS’ GAME

Try to do this one in the car or when you’re taking your walk. Here’s how it works. Try to picture every single detail of the route you’re taking in your mind. Try to remember all the names of the streets.  Identify each shop along the road. Recall the number of intersections and turns. This helps build both memory skills and the skills that help orient you in your physical environment.

 

Quick Tip – Give yourself a ‘GPS FREE DAY’ and turn off your GPS. Check a map for directions and then challenge your memory to see if you can get to your destination without the help of any electronic devices.

 

#13 MAP YOUR MEMORY

Try to walk your grocery store from memory and get every aisle right. Walk the halls of your old high school, your local library, and your local mall all in your mind.

 

#14 BACKWARD SPELLING

Here’s one for those of us who perhaps prefer words to digits. How many words can you spell correctly – backward. Not as easy as it sounds.

 

Start with your first name. Then your last name. Then both of them together.

Move on to the name of your street. Your city. Your state. Spell your pet’s name backward. The name of your company. You get the idea.

 

#15 RUNNING TOTALS

This is a memory take on the old children’s game which we used to call ‘how many?’ How many states can you recite – in alphabetical order? How many capitals? How many presidents in date order? How many vice presidents? How many foods can you name starting with the seventh letter of the alphabet? How many different animals, or types of trees can you name? All good memory  exercises while waiting at a red light, or online at the bank.

 

WRAP UP

Once you understand the power of fitness, not just for your body, but for your memory and your brain, there will be no limit to what you can achieve at work, at home, in your life!

 

TAKE AWAY

Add both physical and mental brain-building exercises to your daily fitness routine.

  1. Include a variety of physical and mental exercises in your workouts.
  2. Try to take your workouts outside,
  3. Mix it up with lots of variety.
  4. Challenge your brain – learn new skills.
  5. Enjoy every moment.