Brain health covers a lot of territory. It’s not just about figuring out math problems or recognizing people. There are several aspects of brain health, including:
- Cognitive function – Thinking clearly, learning new tasks and information, and remembering
- Emotional cognition – How well you understand and respond to people’s emotional cues
- Sensory function – Being able to respond to touch, pain, pressure, temperature, and other sensory clues
- Motor skills – The ability to control both broad and fine motor movements
If you don’t regularly exercise your brain to keep it healthy, you run a higher risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other cognitive related problems as you age. To keep your brain healthy, it is important to exercise all aspects, including motor skills and cognition.
Exercising Your Motor Skills
Motor skills are easy to work out through any form of physical or aerobic exercise, so keeping physically fit is important. Check out our 10 Super Simple Exercises for Staying Fit to get you started on improving your motor skills. You can also take advantage of any exercise programs offered through your retirement community, local gym, or on the golf course. Any time you’re exercising, you’re giving your motor skills a workout. If you work out as little as 30 minutes a day, four to five times a week, you can reap the benefits.
The good news is, you’re also using fine motor skills when pursuing artistic work such as painting, crafting, pottery, baking, and more. Even gaming will enhance hand-eye coordination and small motor skills in the wrists and hands. Many seniors are surprised when they realize how much of this type of exercise they get throughout the day as they cook, clean, bake, drive, do chores, and perform other tasks requiring specific motor skills. You can also use hand-held exercise equipment to exercise the hands.
While it seems strange to talk about a sensory workout, you can improve your brain’s health and improve memory and cognition this way. Going dancing, savoring a meal at a fine dining establishment, experiencing an event through sight, touch, and sound are all ways to use your senses to evoke feelings that will create an impression on your memory. All these sensations working in tandem will encourage your brain to interconnect these sensations, create new neural pathways, and create lasting memories.
Maintaining emotional brain health can be as simple as maintaining your social and family relationships. Keep in touch with family and friends. Plan for regular get-togethers, whether for a monthly card game, attending church or synagogue, seeing a movie together, and catching dinner afterward.
Playing games, having conversations, and sharing meals will all help you maintain social connections. Conversations with others will help you maintain your ability to read social clues properly and understand others’ emotions and reactions. Empathy, kindness, and compassion are uniquely human emotions that are signs of mental and emotional health.
When people ask about how much exercise is needed for brain health in seniors, they’re usually thinking about cognitive skills like short term memory and reasoning skills. They worry that they might develop memory loss or that brain cells will die off as they grow older. As we age, we do lose some brain cells, but regularly exercising them through various mental exercises such as puzzles and games will help keep brain cells healthy and slow their down their loss.
Brain training is easy with our complete selection of brain games designed to entertain while challenging your brain and sharpening your cognitive skills. Crossword puzzles, casino-style games, word scrambles, strategy games like Mahjongg and Scrabble offer enough excitement to make you lose track of time while getting your brain firing on all cylinders. You can also download some classic games that combine such skills as decision making, processing skills, and short-term memory.
What Else Is Important to Brain Health?
When asking how much exercise for seniors’ brain health is sufficient, don’t forget that nutrition is also essential to maintaining healthy brain function. Physical and cognitive training is essential, as is socializing, but there are a few other aspects of overall health and wellness you should keep in mind as well.Proper diet, including lots of vegetables and fruits with a balance of lean meats and grains, is essential. Keep your intake of fats low and minimize red meats. The Mayo Clinic Diet is one way to get the nutrients you leave and maintain a healthy weight. Getting at least eight hours of sleep at night and reducing stress are also crucial to maintaining brain health. At The Senior Life, we have valuable tips for how seniors can achieve all of these.