It is common in unused or rarely used muscles but did you know that your brain can also experience atrophy? According to EverydayHealth.com, the brain also loses its capacity—particularly the cognitive reserve and the ability to withstand brain neurological damage—as a person ages, making mental tasks more difficult than it was back when you are still younger.

Like all other muscles of the body, the brain also needs a healthy lifestyle which includes proper diet, enough sleep and exercise to maintain its capabilities. In fact, a study published in PLOS ONE in 2013 revealed five lifestyle behaviors that greatly affect the level of risk of acquiring dementia. Among these are the achievement of optimal BMI, high levels of fruit and vegetable in a person’s diet, avoidance of vices like smoking, alcohol intake limitation, and regular physical activity.

While all these five are equally important, we will be focusing on mental exercises. Believe it or not, your brain needs as much exercise as the rest of your body to keep it healthy and sharp. To achieve this, you can try activities that:

  1. Teaches you something new. According to HelpGuide.org, even an intellectually demanding activity can easily be accomplished if a person is already good at it. If the activity is like this, then it cannot be considered a good exercise for the brain. The site revealed that an effective brain activity is something that is new and unfamiliar because these things are needed to strengthen the brain’s capacity.
  2. Challenges the intellect. Aside from being new, great brain activities should also pose a challenge to the individual to the point that it would require his full attention and focus. This is because exercising the brain would only be effective if the activity requires effort not just in the beginning.
  3. Allows leveling up. Activities like sports or those that involve music and art can be a great option for mental exercises because it leaves room for further improvement after one accomplishment after the other. It also promotes continuously stretching your brain “muscles.”
  4. Are gratifying and rewarding. Experts believe that brain-boosting activities can be more effective if it involves gaining rewards or satisfaction. This is because it motivates the individual to continue such activity for longer periods, thus, extending the benefits extracted from it as well.

Some great examples of cognitive and mental exercises that has there four elements involve:

  • Testing your memory or recall. A great sample of this activity is memorizing a list of words or phrases. You can begin by familiarizing yourself with something as simple as your grocery list. After an hour or so, see how many items you remember. After that, gradually increase the difficulty level of the words or phrases you memorize to provide mental stimulation.
  • Computing using your head. This means you should put away pen, paper and calculators when adding up numbers. You can make it even more “athletic” by doing math while brisk walking. Predicting your amount due when grocery shopping also works.
  • Learning a foreign language. According to several studies, learning something complex or foreign can help train the brain to stay sharp especially if it is slowly deteriorating due to old age.
  • Learning an instrument or showcase your singing prowess. Some say music is the language of the heart. This is why the brain can be also be exercised by learning how to sing in a chorus or how to play a musical instrument.
  • Refining hand-eye coordination. Since there are many hobbies that involve hand-eye coordination which you can do in your spare time, it is one of the best brain-boosting activities busy people choose. These hobbies are those that involve refining one’s fine-motor skills such as drawing, painting, crocheting, and even knitting.
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