Our brains are a lot like the rest of our muscles in the sense that they require regular exercise in order to grow stronger—or remain strong as we age.
Just like with our biceps, pectoral muscles, or quads, regular training and exercise is vital for strengthening of our brain’s “muscles”. You can keep your memory sharp, your concentration locked in, and your mental agility high, enabling you to process and store new information more effectively.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best brain exercises you can do that will not only boost your memory, but enhance brain function overall:
Work out – That’s right, physical exercise can lead to improved neurological health! Studies have linked resistance and cardiovascular training to increased neuroplasticity , which improves memory and increases spatial learning. Exercise can also improve function of the hippocampus , boosting brain function and causing neurochemical and structural in the brain that leads to better functionality of our brains’ internal “circuits”. Even simple aerobic exercise can improve memory and increase brain volume .
Make it a point to exercise at least 3-5 times per week. Resistance training will boost your mood, enhance your focus, and help to manage your stress. Cardiovascular training can burn fat and prevent the build-up of fatty plaques in your brain. More exercise for your body means a stronger, healthier brain!
Do a puzzle – Jigsaw puzzles are an amazing workout for your brain! Studies  have proven that putting puzzles together recruits a number of your cognitive functions and can protect your brain from aging, particularly visuospatial aging. Simply put, it will help keep your brain young and protect your ability to engage in visual problem-solving and differentiation.
Learn new words – Learning new things is an excellent way to keep your memory sharp and increase your ability to absorb new information. Learning new words—in particular, big, complex words—can help to improve both auditory and visual processing. A few different parts of your brain are engaged to absorb and store vocabulary , and you’ll find it’s amazing for stimulating your brain. Make it a point to learn at least one new word a day, and keep a record of all the new words you’re learning so you can constantly refresh your memory and sharpen your brain.
Draw a map – Drawing is an excellent exercise to hone your brain function, but it can be twice as effective when you draw something that requires your memory. For example, sit down and draw a map to a nearby location: the supermarket, the nearest park, your office, etc. The simple act of drawing a map from memory forces your brain to tap into stored information and enhances your recall ability. You’ll also be forcing your brain to process the information and display it in a way that makes sense and is as accurate as possible. Once you’re done, compare it to a real map, and see how close you were.
Play a card game – One 2015 study  proved that card games were a mentally stimulating exercise, particularly fast-paced card games. These games stimulate several regions of the brain, improves thinking skills, and enhances memory. Games like solitaire, bridge, poker, speed, and crazy eights are all great options to keep your brain sharp and have some fun.
Take a dance class – Dancing is an amazing form of cardiovascular exercise that will help to sharpen and enhance brain function. But if you really want to see improvements, try taking a dance class and learn a new form of dance: salsa, merengue, jazz, tap, hip-hop, or any other style you like! Learning new steps and complex routines increases your brain’s memory and ability to store and process information .
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Don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of others? Try taking dance lessons at home, using YouTube videos, online dance courses, or live classes via social media. You can have fun dancing in your living room or workout room and still get all the brain-boosting benefits with none of the public embarrassment.
Learn something new -- Studies have proven a definite link between learning new skills and improved memory function, particularly among older adults . It’s an excellent way to enhance the connections in your brain and encourage better neuroplasticity. Any new skill—be it something simple like gardening or riding a bike, or something more complex like computer programming or a new language—can help to keep your brain agile and sharp.
Teach someone something – Teaching is another amazing way to not only increase your understanding of a particular subject or skill, but to find new ways to utilize and process the information stored in your brain.
Think about it: you may know how something is done after years of doing it, to the point where it’s almost instinctive, but it takes work to explain and demonstrate it to others simply enough that they can understand it. This will tap into your memory and harness your recall, bringing up data buried deep in your brain so you can share it with others. Plus, it’s a great way to practice a skill you may be learning yourself, or one you haven’t used in a long time.
Your brain is a truly spectacular machine, one that is created to run effectively for decades all day, every day. Unfortunately, over time, the machine begins to break down if we don’t use it properly or, like muscles, it doesn’t get enough exercise.
In order to keep your brain healthy, give it the workout it needs with the exercises above. Regular brain exercise can do wonders to maintain sharp, efficient cognitive function well into your later decades of life!
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