10 targeted and intelligent exercises to improve memory

You already know that fitness is good for your health, but you may not know that exercising your mind is just as important to keep your brain in peak condition.

We know that regular physical activity is important, especially as we age, and want to reduce our risk of disease and other age-related health problems. For example, strength training can help build muscle and increase bone density, balance exercises can help prevent falls, and regular moderate-to-intensity exercise can help maintain range of motion so you stay flexible.

Likewise, your brain’s cognitive reserve: its ability to withstand neurological damage from aging and other factors without showing signs of slowing down or memory loss, both physically and cognitively, can benefit from exercise. In the same way that strength training adds lean muscle mass to your body and helps you maintain muscle as you age, adhering to a brain-healthy lifestyle and regularly engaging in targeted intellectual exercise can help increase your brain’s cognitive reserve, although more Research is needed to confirm the effect.

A whole-body approach to a healthy brain

What Types of Exercises Can Benefit Your Brain? Research suggests that when it comes to keeping your mind sharp, exercising both your body and mind and sticking to healthy habits is the perfect formula.

The authors of a study published in July 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed about 196,400 participants ages 60 and older who did not have cognitive impairment or dementia at enrollment for eight years. They collected data on the participants’ lifestyle habits, such as current smoking status, regular physical activity, healthy diet and alcohol consumption. Ultimately, the researchers found that a healthy lifestyle was associated with a lower risk of dementia among the participants, regardless of genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Another study, published in Neurology in July 2020, found that people who engage in multiple healthy behaviors significantly reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. For about six years, the study tracked five healthy lifestyles in nearly 2,800 adults: not smoking, regular physical activity, low to moderate alcohol consumption, adherence to a Mediterranean diet, and engagement in activities that enhance cognitive skills that those who followed four or more of these behaviors , had about a 60% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to a good diet, regular exercise can promote vascular health to protect brain tissue. It’s also important to avoid ruts and boredom. The brain always wants to learn something new. Some researchers believe that people are more prone to dementia when they pay less attention to things around them. When the brain is passive, it tends to atrophy. Therefore, sedentary and relatively passive activities, such as sitting in front of a television for hours, can adversely affect brain health over time.

And a small study published in July 2019 in the Journal of the International Neuropsychologological Society found that a single moderate-intensity exercise session immediately before a cognitive task led to greater brain activation. The researchers measured the brain activity of 26 healthy adults between the ages of 55 and 85 on two separate days. One day, they asked participants to rest for 30 minutes before identifying famous and non-famous names.

On another day, they asked participants to ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes before performing the same activity. The result: brain activation was significantly greater after training. This finding led researchers to conclude that exercise can directly alter the way our brain works, adding to existing scientific evidence that physical activity helps increase brain function and memory.

10 brain exercises to improve memory and cognitive function

Besides the healthy lifestyle habits mentioned above, you can also keep your mind and memory sharp with exercises to train your brain. And you don’t have to go broke to do it. Although there are a large number of computer games and applications that promise to improve cognitive function, no definitive studies show that these products have any significant neurological benefits for the elderly. A meta-analysis of eight clinical trials published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in February 2020 found that while computer-based cognitive training was associated with small short-term cognitive benefits, there was insufficient high-quality research to support its use support brain games to prevent dementia or improve long-term cognitive function.

Instead, health experts recommend sticking to brain training that involves real-world activities. Exercises aimed at strengthening brain function should offer novelty and challenge. Return home by a different route. Brush your teeth with your other hand. The brain works with association, which is why it’s easier to memorize song lyrics than trying to memorize the same words without music, so the more meaning involved, the better.

Your morning paper is a good place to start. Simple games like sudoku and word games are good, but so are comics where you find different things from picture to picture. In addition to word games, the following exercises sharpen your mental skills.

Test your memory

Make a list

Grocery shopping, getting things done or whatever comes to your mind and memorizing. An hour later, see how many items you can remember. Make the list as challenging as possible to improve mental stimulation. A previous small study suggested that writing down and organizing lists helped older people remember word lists better.

game music

Learn to play a musical instrument or join a choir. Learning new and complex skills is good for the aging brain. A study published in The Gerontologist suggests that musical activities (like playing a musical instrument, singing in a choir, or piano lessons) hold particular promise for healthy brain aging, although research is limited.

math in your head

Solve problems without pencil, paper or computer. A small study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2021 suggests that solving math problems has a positive effect on participants’ cognition. You can make this exercise harder and more athletic by walking at the same time.

Take a cooking class

Learn to cook a new cuisine. Cooking involves multiple senses: smell, touch, sight and taste, which affect different parts of the brain. You will also use cognitive skills such as meal planning, problem solving, making a shopping list, multitasking and organizing.

Learn a foreign language

Listening and hearing while learning a new language stimulates the brain. Additionally, bilingualism was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia in a meta-analysis published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review in October 2020.

Create pictures of words

Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, and then try to think of other words that start (or end) with the same two letters.

Draw a reminder card

At home, after visiting a new place, try drawing a map of the area. Repeat this exercise every time you go to a new place. A previous study of London taxi drivers (who have to memorize the complex city map) found that drivers who were successful in memorizing the city map had permanent changes in brain structure and improved cognitive function.

Challenge your taste buds

As you eat, try to identify the different ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.

Refine your hand-eye coordination

Take up a new hobby that uses fine motor skills and can help you maintain good hand-eye coordination. This can be racquet sports, tai chi, knitting, drawing, painting, or video games.

Learn a new sport

Start exercising. A December 2019 review published in Frontiers in Psychology found that increasing your balance, strength, and aerobic capacity—your body’s ability to use oxygen for energy—can help protect your brain as you age. Yoga, karate, golf or tennis in particular promote brain health, while Harvard Health Publishing recommends swimming for its brain benefits.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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