Boost Your Brain Health: Brain Exercises For Focus, Concentration, and Longevity
You hit the gym regularly to strengthen your muscles. But are you also regularly exercising your brain? Neuroscientists have found that your brain is just like a muscle — if you're not regularly engaging your brain, stimulating your mind, and building your cognitive function, your brain health begins to weaken. It's the quintessential case of "use it or lose it."
If you want to have better focus, increased concentration, improved memory, better clarity and creativity, and even a lower risk of aging-related brain health concerns (i.e., Alzheimer's disease and dementia), it's time to take your brain to the mental gym.
Why Your Brain Health Matters
Your brain is closely intertwined with all aspects of your life, and exercising your mind to build your brain health has dramatic implications on your overarching wellness and happiness. For example, multiple studies have found a close correlation between improved brain health and a longer lifespan.
And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg:
- Strengthening the brain boosts your mobility, coordination, and balance (key for not just your daily activities but also enhancing your efforts and results when working out).
- A strong brain is more resilient to stress and anxiety. This is foundational not only for mental health and happiness but also lowers your levels of the hormone cortisol (cortisol is closely linked with stubborn fat, weight gain, and poor exercise recovery).
- A healthy brain guards against memory loss, fuzzy thinking, and other age-related brain health concerns.
How Do You Know if Your Brain Is Healthy?
The British Medical Journal reports that there is currently no universal definition of "brain health." For example, the CDC in the United States and the World Health Organization define brain health differently.
And while different scientific bodies might use varying terminology to identify and measure brain health, it all boils down to one question: Do you feel that your mind has the emotional and cognitive strength to help you accomplish everything you need to do? Or do you struggle with:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor memory
- Fuzzy thinking
- Lack of focus and constantly distracted
- Poor creativity and problem solving
“The brain is a complex organ," reports the BMJ. “Brain health may therefore be defined as the preservation of optimal brain integrity and mental and cognitive function at a given age.”
It's never too late to start. Make the following brain exercises and wellness routines a part of your daily habits. These mental exercises stimulate your brain, engage often-overlooked areas of your mind, and forge new connections between your neurons for better brain health.
4 Brain Exercises For a Stronger, Healthier Mind
1. Mentally Stimulating Brain Games and Apps
There are many apps and mental exercise games online and on most smartphone app marketplaces. All of them purport to strengthen your brain, but is there any science behind it? Yes, and no.
“It’s called behavioral activation," says neuropsychologist Nawal Mustafa, M.A., in a recent episode of the Braincare podcast. She adds that it's less about the specific activity and more about the correlation between brain activation and what she calls "environmental rewards."
"When people start to intentionally engage in activities that they enjoy, they start to notice the connection between what they do and how they feel," notes Mustafa. "And that was important for our brains more than anything else, to enhance cognitive functioning.”
In other words, yes — brain games and mind-strengthening apps can effectively exercise your mind. But it's less about the game itself. For the best results, ensure it's:
- Mentally stimulating
- Slightly challenging
- Enjoyable and pleasurable
2. Traditional Cardiovascular Workouts
- Heals itself
- Transfers data and memory to your long-term memory storage
- Flushes out metabolic waste and toxins that accumulated while you were awake
3. Learn Something Completely Brand New
Take a photography workshop. Join an online video class about a new office skill. Pick up a new hobby (or start up an old hobby that you haven't done in a while). Enroll in a dance class. Invite your friends to join a new club or activity-based organization. Play a new sport.
When you do the same things repeatedly, your brain goes into autopilot mode and doesn't get fully activated. In contrast, investing in new mentally and socially engaging activities has been shown to:
- Create new neural connections within the brain
- Generate new brain cells and sparking physical changes in your brain structure
- Boost all aspects of brain performance
4. Engage in Mentally Stimulating Entertainment
No matter how exciting your latest Netflix binge-worthy series, watching television is still a passive activity. You're sitting and taking in someone else's creativity without fully engaging with its content.
Similar to the above points about investing in mentally engaging games and pastimes, the same holds true for your entertainment. Three new studies released in 2021 found a close link between watching television and an accelerated decline in brain health.
One of the studies even found that watching television for just one hour a day caused a measurable reduction in your brain's crucial gray matter.
Instead of television, try mentally stimulating entertainment like:
- Audiobooks or traditional books
- Watching an engaging and entertaining speaker online
- Puzzles and crafts
- Outdoor entertainment like gardening, biking, hiking, etc.
Find Better Nutrition For Your Brain Health
Brain exercises are just the beginning. Nutrition is also key, with your brain using an estimated 20% of your daily calories to power all of its complex functions. A broad array of nutrients and supplements have been shown to boost brain health and guard against cognitive decline, including omega-3s, antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, and protein. Stock up today with Tiger Fitness' best-selling collection of health and wellness supplements.