Exercise Your Most Important Muscle!

Rubik\'s Cube
Photo by Zanastardust via Flickr

We all know that exercise is important, but today I want to talk about a different kind of exercise. We all need a regular regimen of exercise to keep our muscles in tip top shape. However, we can’t forget the most important muscle that we have. I’m talking about your brain.

Why workout your brain?

People often don’t think about the fact that you have to challenge yourself mentally or your brain will decline in function. Studies have shown that failing to challenge the brain could actually result in Alzheimer’s and possibly dementia. Those are conditions you definitely want to avoid.

How should I exercise my brain?
How you workout your brain depends on your interests, but remember, you don’t have to be good at whatever activity you choose. In fact, that’s the point. By tackling something that you’re not good at, you have a chance to really challenge your brain.  If you’re very good at the activity already, it doesn’t stimulate your brain very much.  It’s similar to how a short walk doesn’t challenge a marathoner, but swimming some laps will. Here are a few things you could try, but remember this is hardly a definitive list. It’s just a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Do puzzles or brain teasers: Want to challenge your brain? Try some brain teasers or puzzles.  If you don’t know where to find some, try one of the brain teasers on sharpbrains.com. Or, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, download one of the puzzle games available on the Apple app store such as a version of Sudoku or Wurdle. (Many other mobile devices have equivalent programs, but I only own an iPhone.)
  2. Go to a museum: They are a great place to learn about historical events, art, natural history and the community.  There are museums for almost everything you are interested in and learning is a great way to stimulate your brain. For maximum effect, go to a museum about a subject you know little about and learn as much as you can.
  3. Learn how to sing or act: Learning something outside your normal experience can be beneficial to sharpening your mind and singing or acting are extremely different from the activities that most of us pursue on a daily basis.
  4. Learn a new language: Learning a language can be very stimulating for the brain. It involves memory, comprehension and creativity. As a bonus, you’ll be able to speak a new language, which is always fun, and can be beneficial in the long run if you travel.
  5. Read: Reading is not only fun and entertaining, but it helps stimulate your mind and keeps it sharp by introducing you to new topics.
  6. Introduce something new to your routine: Doing something new on a daily basis, challenges your brain, gives it new pathways to process and keeps it sharp.  So try cooking a different recipe, traveling to a new destination or taking up a new hobby.

The key is to push your brain into doing something new or difficult fairly frequently because it will exercise your brain and keep it sharp as you age. Don’t forget the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” And the worst thing to lose, is your mind.

Comments (8)

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  1. Sleep says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Don’t forget some of the “modern solutions” to brain fitness — Nintendo’s Brain Age and (my favorite) Lumosity.

  2. Rosy says:

    Love this one!!! Growing up my weakness had always been spelling, but reading as much as I do, I know that it has helped me remember more. I speak spanish, but I just started back reading and writing it. It’s so true, you don’t use it, you will lose it. Thanks, Talli.

  3. That is why Advanced Brain Technologies, the company I work for, came out with one of the very first brain fitness programs almost ten years ago. Our brand new version, BrainBuilder, was just released and allows a user to enjoy many different exercises and games, all at different levels of challenge, set by the user, who can also track his or her results.

  4. Great post Talli and so true.
    I frequently enroll in courses to update my knowledge on physiotherapy, health and wellbeing and fitness. This is a requirement of the industry I work in but I am also grateful for this as it makes me feel as if I never left school! This constant learning helps keep my brain muscles in great shape.

    Thanks Talli,
    Christine @ http://www.thisweekinhealth.com.au

  5. M says:

    So true! To constantly learn and grow mentally is very important! Great post!

  6. mike says:

    Hi Talli,

    Great post, and you are so right. It is easy to include programs like ABT or Lumosity or Mind Sparke in your daily workout or routine. Mike

  7. Great post – I love lists.

    One further thing I would add is do something to push you out of your comfort zone to help others. E.g.:
    1/ Help at a soup kitchen;
    2/ Volunteer for a Vulnerable People agency (Samaritans, Women’s Shelters, etc)
    3/ Walk the streets and just talk to homeless people.

    I would argue that these kinds of activities can exercise the brain in powerful ways by stretching our arenas of security and experience.

  8. […] – Exercise Your Most Important Muscle! saved by itsikson2009-09-05 – ILTA COM 6: Sharpening SharePoint saved by mhinze2009-09-03 – […]

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