We work out our bodies to keep physically fit, but we shouldn’t overlook the need to exercise our brains to stay mentally fit too.
We go to the gym and work up a sweat so we can tone up, build muscle, lose fat, strengthen our hearts and increase our flexibility. But we often forget about the need to exercise our brains so we stay mentally fit. Studies show that keeping our minds active and engaged is a critical step in maintaining good mental health and well-being.
One new study has revealed that an active cognitive lifestyle — that is, taking part in activities that are mentally stimulating — is a more healthy lifestyle. The study also found that an active cognitive lifestyle resulted in women having greater brain weight, which seems to indicate that not exercising our brains may lead to loss of cognitive ability.
Ways to improve your cognitive health? Read on.
Drink a flavonol-rich cocoa
It may not be readily found on the market just yet, but a research study has discovered that consuming a special cocoa — one made to retain a high level of flavonol compounds — may improve the functioning of your blood vessels, which may benefit brain function.
Play video games
In a research study, video games designed to exercise working memory in children were found to improve their abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills. The benefits not only existed during the period the children play the games; their improved mental faculties persisted three months after no longer playing the video games.
Whatever your choice of aerobic fitness, physical exercise can offer mental fitness benefits. Exercising regularly improves blood flow to the brain and helps you to be a quicker learner too. So go for a run, take a spin class, dance your heart out or swim some laps a few times a week, and reap both the physical and mental rewards.
In another study, exercise was found to help keep the brain from deteriorating from such diseases as Alzheimer’s. It does this by triggering the release of compounds in the brain that help to prevent inflammation — inflammation that is linked to neurodegenerative damage.
Read, craft and play games
Make sure your hobbies include mental activities such as reading magazines, crafting (such as making pottery) or playing games, as all are linked to delaying or even decreasing the risk of memory loss.