Anti-Aging Tip: Worried About Memory Loss? Try These Brain Exercises

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By Ellen Wood

You CAN grow younger and one of the best anti-aging action steps is exercise. But ‘use it or lose it’ doesn’t apply only to muscle fitness or sex. It also applies to the brain.

Our brains change as we mature but it’s not all about decline. I recently read about a brain scientist with two teenage sons who noticed such changes in their personalities that she started studying all the research reports of the brain during that phase of life. Turns out that a lot of the bad decisions teens make is due to the fact that the brain hasn’t finished developing and there’s a gap between two important sections of the brain.

I mention this only to point out that as adults, we do have fully mature brains, and contrary to an outdated but prevailing myth, we can stimulate new neural pathways and cell growth no matter how old we live to be.

Advances in brain imaging and neuroscience have enabled scientists to learn more about the brain and how it works. While researchers at the University of Kansas have found that getting plenty of physical exercise may keep your brain fit too, there’s even better news.

The latest scientific research shows that your brain performs best when it has its own fitness program, fostering a whole new industry – neurobics, exercise for the brain.

Neurobics can take the form of mental exercises, brain teasers and puzzles. Studies show that by exercising your brain, you can actually create new neural pathways and reverse cognitive decline.

This contradicts the old belief that our brain cells are just dying off as we age. The truth is we can stimulate growth in our brain cells at any age!

Every day I exercise my body and my brain, but that’s a big change. Before I began my ‘Grow Younger’ program, every time I got the urge to exercise, I’d lie down until it went away. Now I exercise every day and it’s fun!

I had a special reason for beginning brain exercises and changing my negative mental chatter about aging: my mother died of Alzheimer’s. Mom spent over three years in a nursing home and every time I visited her, I absorbed those images of her wasting away. I’d read a lot about Alzheimer’s and that it’s hereditary, so I worried that I’d have the same kind of deterioration of mind and body as I aged.

It was after I had a ‘wake up’ call that I realized how my thoughts and beliefs about aging were creating a life for me that I did not want. That’s when I began to consciously change my self-talk and exercise my brain.

It’s very easy to fall into habits of doing the same things and not trying anything new. Routine actions and thoughts become so automatic that most of our actions are governed by ‘muscle memory’ and we do them largely unconsciously.

To activate new brain circuits we need to stimulate our brain chemistry by doing something new, like eating with our non-dominant hand or closing our eyes during some routine action.

Sudoku is good for the brain and so are crossword puzzles, especially if you set a time limit for yourself and do them quickly. Want a new challenge? Try word games and puzzles at  http://www.merriam-webster.com/game/new.htm.

Another way to stimulate your brain is by learning how to do something completely new – to speak a foreign language, a new skill such as knitting or how to play an instrument – perhaps the piano, banjo or guitar.

The best book I’ve found for increasing my brain power is “Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain” by Ryuta Kawashima.

Allow yourself to become excited about trying new things and challenging yourself. The brain can be exercised and become more flexible just as our muscles can.

So use it, don’t lose it, and you can forget about memory loss.

Author, anti-aging coach, columnist and speaker, Ellen Wood helps men and women grow younger with body/mind/spirit action steps. She is living proof that they work. Sign up for three free gifts at her website: http://www.howtogrowyounger.com.

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