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How's Your Brain Fitness? 10 Exercise Tips for a Healthy and Fit Brain

Brain fitness? Everyone knows about the importance of exercise for the body, but it's also true for a healthy brain. Find 10 tips for exercising your brain.

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Just about everybody knows the importance of exercise and physical fitness routines in improving overall health and wellness. We can't help but read something almost daily about the importance of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise to improve our health. But what about the importance of brain fitness and exercise for strengthening our brains -- and how is brain fitness related to overall health and wellness?

No matter your age, it's neither too early nor too late to begin a brain fitness regimen that regularly exercises your brain. I discovered the concept of brain fitness from some of our high-performing students while I was researching topics for my study skills book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills. We found that students who watched their nutrition and diet, performed multiple study methods, and maintained a regular exercise routine performed better in their college classes.

According to SharpBrains.com, "there are four essential pillars to maintaining a healthy brain that functions better now and lasts longer. Those pillars are physical exercise, mental exercise, good nutrition, and stress management." Other experts suggest spirituality also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy brain.

This article focuses on discussing mental exercises that you can perform for a healthy brain, but please note that in other parts of EmpoweringRetreat.com we have articles on stress management, good nutrition, physical exercise, and spirituality -- and you are encouraged to take an active role in reducing stress, eating better, exercising daily, and enhancing your spirituality.

Exercise Tips for a Healthy Brain

Here are 10 exercise tips for increasing your brain fitness. Try to work one or more of these elements into your daily life. All these tips are important to a healthy brain -- and are presented in no particular order.

Brain Fitness Tip 1: Socialize and Talk With Other People. Nothing keeps the brain in shape like stimulating conversations and discussions on the topics of the day. You don't need to get into heavy debates (though those are probably even better for your brain) with others, just friendly chats with a bit of bantering.

Brain Fitness Tip 2: Challenge Yourself With Mentally Stimulating Activities. Completing a few brain teasers, puzzles, or word games is a great way to keep your mind sharp. Complete a few crossword puzzles or jumbles. You can find these puzzles in your newspaper and in puzzle books. You can also use Websites like BrainBashers, Boatload Puzzles, or Jumble.

Brain Fitness Tip 3: Find Ways to Laugh and Share Laughter. Laughter is an elixir for many ailments, and studies show that partaking in humorous experiences positively affect three elements of the brain -- a cognitive part that has to find meaning to get the joke, a physical part that tells the mouth to smile and laugh, and an emotional part that helps provide the happy feeling from experiencing something funny.

Brain Fitness Tip 4: Develop and Maintain Your Sense of Purpose. There's no question that people with a strong sense of purpose live longer, but studies also show that the brain thrives in these same folks. If you have not discovered your mission in life, or have recently experienced a major life transition (such as graduating from college or retiring from your job), now might be the time to find that next great challenge -- to discover or rediscover your life's calling. (Here's a free tutorial on finding your career passion.)

Brain Fitness Tip 5: Stimulate Your Senses. Because your senses play a major role in helping your brain interpret your surroundings and store vivid memories, it's a good idea to indulge in sensual experiences for your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. Find situations in which you can use one or more of your five sense organs: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Go to the park, visit an art gallery, attend a concert, walk around the food court.

Brain Fitness Tip 6: Play Games. Break out the Monopoly board. Line up the chess pieces. Turn on your Wii. Playing games is a great way to keep the brain active -- and the more strategy or coordination in the game, the more your brain gets exercised. Play with friends or play against the computer, but keep challenging yourself to succeed in the games.

Brain Fitness Tip 7: Change Your Routine. Having a regular routine is often comforting in a world that is spinning around us, but it can also lead to boredom and monotony... so mix up your daily schedule. Break old habits. Try walking backwards for a while -- or simply walk in a different direction than usual. Breaking old habits may be difficult, but stay positive and focused on the benefits you're brain will gain from learning new techniques.

Brain Fitness Tip 8: Read, Read, Read. One of the keys to brain fitness is keeping your brain active, and reading -- whether a book, magazine, newspaper, or Website or blog -- is a great tool for keeping your brain actively engaged. And yes, if your eyesight is weak or impaired, listening to books on CD and staying actively engaged in processing the materials counts the same as reading.

Brain Fitness Tip 9: Keep a Positive Attitude. People with a positive outlook are generally healthier than those who always see the bad before the good -- and the same holds for brain health. Being negative increases levels of toxicity throughout the body. While you're focusing on developing a more positive outlook on life, you might want to begin steering clear from people who are persistently negative and hanging around people who are generally and genuinely happy.

Brain Fitness Tip 10: Maintain Good and Sufficient Sleep. As with all exercise programs, you need time for recovery. There is no question that our brains need time off from the stimuli that bombard us during our waking hours -- not that our brain slows down or stops functioning; think of it more as a nightly rebooting. Lack of sleep affects our brain in a number of ways, from affecting our ability to learn and retain information (cognitive functioning) to mood swings, increased irritability, and long-term mental health issues -- so try to get your ideal amount each night, which for most adults is about 7 to 8 hours (though some may need as few as 5 hours and others as much as 10 hours). Read these sleep tips.

Final Thoughts on Brain Fitness

If you're really serious about improving your brain's health -- and your overall health -- don't smoke and drink alcohol only moderately. Consider adding these brain foods into your diet.

A final piece of advice from one of the leading brain experts: "If you want a sharper mind, actively start caring for your brain and acting for its betterment," says Daniel Amen, MD, author of many medical journal aritcles and more than 20 books, including a current favorite, Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum Potential.

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Avid wellness guru Dr. Randall S. Hansen Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., is an avid bicyclist, adventurist, environmentalist, and student of wellness and photography, with a mission of empowering others to lead great lives. He is Founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites. Dr. Hansen is also the founder and caretaker of this site, EmpoweringRetreat.com, as well as founder of EmpoweringAdvice.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com or reach him by email at CEO(at)empoweringsites.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.


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