Exercise for your brain? You are in the right place. I am a 61, almost 62 year old late life Dad of an 11 year old and a five year old, and on occasion I have that senior moment where just the right expression of exasperation escapes me, so being the excellent and determined father that I am, I am seeking out tools to use to help me express exasperation beautifully by exercising my brain.
Luckily for me, in the last couple of years there has been a great deal written about brain fitness, a great deal of research done, very encouraging research for the most part.
It turns out that most of what we were taught about the brain prior to about 10 years ago is not accurate.
We grow new neurons on a daily basis, which is a process called neurogenesis, and those neurons can migrate to existing circuitry, particularly the circuitry involved in memory, and the brain is much more plastic, which means it changes according to novel learning experiences all the way out to the end of our lives. That process is called neuroplasticity.
The old model of the brain was that you grew an amazing number of neurons and formed circuitry when you were young, and then the brain stopped growing and forming circuits, and actually began to shrink until you were "taken of to the home" to await the end of that process.
For the best neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, according the the authors of Brainfit for Life Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan, we need to attend to and take care of what they call the 'Pillars of Brain Fitness', physical activity/exercise, nutrition including anti oxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.
And when we are attending to those aspects of our brain fitness, then the perfect expression of exasperation will appear at the perfect time for your parenting.
You may need that occasionally even for adult kids.
So the first pillar of exercise for brain is exercise. Evans and Burghardt report that exercise for the brain is the most important pillar of brain fitness. The good news is that the requisite exercise does not have to be of the very expensive private coach and club membership type, it can simply be more of what we are already doing, so if you take a stroll around the block, go around twice, and get your breathing deep enough that it is hard to walk at that pace and talk.
However, at some point you want to look at combining cardio with some weight resistence exercises, and for an interesting 10 minute a day workout, check this out. Scott and Angie have put together a program based on the HIIT model, or high intensity interval training.
(Your high intensity, not theirs).
If you click on that link, you will be taken to a page where you will find 89 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat working on their neurogenesis using their adoptation of the Touisignant routine.
Believe me, if you try it out, you will be winded, and you will see improvement in your memory, especially the sore muscle part.
Nutrition is the next important pillar of brain fitness, and a very key nutritional element to exercise for brain is omega 3 fatty acid.
Turns out that our neurons are composed of sheaths which are mostly omega 3, and since we do not make that, we have to get omega 3 from our diet. The best source is fish, which may conjure up fear about mercury poisoning, so a supplement may be in order. Without replacement omega 3 fatty acid, those neurons get brittle and do not clearly communicate, which is part of the Senior Moment Syndrome.
Sleep is an important cog in the exercise for brain process, as memory consolidation and certain hormonal events happen while we sleep, and if we cut short our sleep, the consequences are not helpful.
Stress management is a very important aspect of exercise for brain, and the best sleep and stress management tool I know of is called Heartmath. Stress management is critical because stress hormones kill those new neurons before they get cemented into the hippocampus, where it appears they go. The hippocampus is associated with memory formulation.
Heartmath has grown out of another new field of study called neurocardiology, which is the study of the hearts own nervous system.
Yes, your heart has a brain of its own, and that heart brain can learn and make decision independently of any other brain you have and you can learn to keep itself coherent very frequently.
A coherent heart rate opens up the higher perceptual centers of the brain for brain storming problem solutions, and it has a wonderful impact on athletics and test taking for example.
Heartmath took me about 6 one half hour sessions to learn, then I could cue the 'feel good' heartmath physiology on any heart beat. Perfect process for parenting, when getting calm helps me determine just the right amount of sarcasm to use in regards to the picking up of the toys issue.
The next exercise for brain step is to look at novel learning experiences. The brain is a very energy efficient organ, and it will delete circuits that do not get used. Too many deletions is not a good thing for your memory, so in order to encourage increased neuroplasticity rather than decreased the experts suggest we find a way to learn a new language or a new instrument, which maximize neuroplasticity at any age.
Not sure about you, but I do not have the time to do that, but I do have time to use some computerized brain fitness programs that have powerful research evaluations.
The three that I have used successfully are Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, and Lumosity, which I keep booted up on my computer to use quickly as a brain brightener.
Again, a good tool to use as a parent. The kids are already slick and change their M.O. faster than a flu virus.
I need every tool to help my brain stay on top of them.
A wise person once told me that an "Attitude of Gratitude" would help me feel better in those moments of fear or resentment. That wise person was correct.
Would you share what you are most grateful for?
It could be just what another person needs to renew themselves.