Exercise your brain how? Are there little dumbbells for its little arms?
All silliness aside, there are brain fitness parlors springing up around the country where you can go to practice skills like Heartmath, which opens up the higher perceptual centers in your brain, or practice auditory training on the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, or Lumosity, or Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, all examples of commercially available brain fitness programs.
Why would someone want to go to a brain fitness parlor to workout their brain? Turns out we can actually grow new brain cells, which no one knew we could do until about 10 years ago, if we plow the field, so to speak, and this capacity of the human brain is called neurogenesis. Our brains are also incredibly neuroplastic too, which means they rewire as we learn, and we can encourage our brains to do lots of rewiring by providing novel learning experiences.
And if you have been following the growth of the brain fitness field, then I am sure you have heard one of the experts write about the 'pillars of brain fitness', which are physical exercise, nutrition including lots of attention to antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.
If you are searching for an overview of the brain fitness field, I suggest this e-book, Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D, neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
They have culled the neuroscientfic research and pulled out lots of important tidbits of useful information for us, the brain consumer, to use in enhancing neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
It turns out that the single most important thing we can do for our exercise your brain routine is physical exercise, of the deep breathing kind.
So if you are my age, 61, and you do not want to join the YMCA just yet or fling around big heavey barbells and drip sweat, you do not have to go to that level of exercise to exercise your brain.
Although I belong to the YMCA in Rockford, Illinois and there are many folks close to 90 years old who do daily workouts including weight lifting exercises, so you can work up to that level of intensity at your own pace.
But take a look at what 88 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat do to prepare themselves for the rigors of travel. They have been doing the Tousignant version of HIIT or high intensity interval training for about 8 years. Their story is about half way down the page that clicking on the above link takes you to.
Evans and Burghardt go into a great deal of detail about the benefits of physical activity/exercise for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
They suggest beginning where you are and working up from physical activity to physical exercise.
So if you are walking around the block once per day, try for twice, and eventually you can work yourself up to a 10 minute HIIT workout a couple of times per day.
I really like the way a quick burst of aerobic exercise clears the neural networks, so I build it in. I create a different kind of HIIT workout each time I do it, depending on what I feel like doing. Sometimes more calisthenics, sometimes a little treadmill, or up and down the stairs five times, or a quick bike ride around the circle we live on, which is .6 mile, maybe twice around the circle, or I mow the lawn too.
So the neurogenetic kind of exercise your brain activity does not have to involve clubs or coaches or expensive workout clothes.
Evans and Burghardt make nutrition the next most important exercise your brain pillar, and they talk about the micro and macro nutrients so important to our brains, and how we need to get those from fresh fruits and vegetables.
I have become a bit of a juice advocate. We grew some tomatoes this summer, and peppers, and celery in our garden, and I got out my veg-o-matic and juiced them with some store bought V-8 juice for fluid, and it was great.
Grossed my kids out though, which does have some benefit for parental satisfaction.
And I felt better with more lycopene in my system.
And Evans and Burghardt talk about the benefits of omega 3 fatty acid. Actually, they say it is mandatory that we get omega 3 fatty acid, because our neurons are sheathed in it, and if there is not replacement omega 3,then those sheaths get brittle and do not communicate as clearly with surrounding neurons, which leaves us sounding and looking confused.
The best source of omega 3 is fish, which may put us at risk for mercury poisoning. I know I prefer a supplement for my omega 3 fatty acid, as long as it has been processed to clean out the mercury.
One of the reasons you can find the Heartmath tool at brain fitness gyms is its impact on both the sleep and stress management pillars of brain fitness.
Learning the Heartmath tool is simple, although you do need to install it on your computer and practice it for perhaps five to ten hours.
Once you learn how to do the coherent heart rate, which feels so good, you can cue the physiology on demand, at bedtime or when stress is becoming problematic. Too much stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol kills those new neurons before they can get cemented into existing neural networks where they are needed. That is the opposite of exercise your brain.
Since Heartmath utilizes the heart's own brain, it is an internal solution, which makes it so superior to a medication.
Heartmath opens up the higher perceptual centers of the brain too, and has wonderful application to things like your golf score, and your ACT, GRE, or SAT tests too.
Those exercise your brain parlors that I mentioned at the top of the article all have some of the commercially available brain fitness programs available for your use.
The Posit Science Brain Fitness Program is a program I am certain you will find, in part because it really fits the bill for the novel learning experience brain fitness pillar that Evans and Burghardt mention, but also because it has been researched and written about in the IMPACT study of over 500 seniors and the results they experienced from using the Posit exercise your brain program.
The Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro exercises your brain all the way to an increased IQ. Not sure how that could be possible? It is. But remember, increased IQ needs to be accompanied by a high EQ or emotional intelligence.