Simple Brain Exercises to Keep Older Minds Sharp

Simple Brain Exercises to Keep Older Minds Sharp

Physical fitness gets a lot of attention. Gyms, yoga studios, and spinning classes can be found in abundance in most areas. You don’t have to go far to find someone wearing a gadget that counts steps and calories burned, and active-wear has invaded the fashion industry, with designer yoga pants and sports bras adorning covers of magazines.

While an emphasis on staying active and physically healthy is important, mental fitness is equally vital to your overall well-being. As we age, we can start to notice a bit of forgetfulness. We walk into a room and can’t remember what we were looking for. We leave the grocery store and can’t remember where the car is parked. We often write off our memory loss as an inevitable sign of getting older, but we can do simple things each day to strengthen our brains and improve our short and long-term memory. Think of it as exercise for your brain.

Shake Up Your Routine

We are all creatures of habit and routine. But did you know that a few changes to your habits can jump-start your brain?

For instance, think about your last several trips to the grocery store. Most of us have a habit of shopping a certain way. Perhaps you hit the outside aisles first and then go through the middle, or vice versa. Try varying your path the next time you shop. It can make you think about a new strategy.

At the end of your trip, when you are loading the groceries into your car, try using the opposite hand to open the car door, or if you carry a purse, try putting it on the opposite arm. Every little change will have you thinking about your movements and will make your brain work a little harder.

Memorize Lists

As you shop, test your memory by loading the shopping cart without peaking at your grocery list. By trying to memorize the items you need to purchase, instead of constantly referring to a piece of paper, you will help strengthen your memory and flex your mental muscle.

A fun way to remember your grocery list is to build a story around the items on your grocery list. As humans, we love a good narrative. Before your next shopping trip, use your imagination to create a funny or heartfelt story about milk, eggs, raspberries, and broccoli!

Memory-Boosting Foods

While you’re at the grocery store, pick up some superfoods to help boost your brainpower. According to the American Academy of Neurology, a healthy diet may be linked to a lower risk of declining memory. Fill your basket with leafy greens like spinach and kale, and cold-water fish like salmon, and dark-skinned fruits like blueberries. Coffee, chocolate, and extra virgin olive oil are also good for the brain.

Learn Something New

Consider participating in new activities that engage the mind and require you to learn something new. Join a book club and read about an unexplored topic while also engaging socially with others. Move those feet and learn ballroom dance to get both your mind and your heart pumping. Get your creative juices flowing by making art and try to memorize the lyrics of a song. Write a poem, play an instrument, or try learning a new language, even if it’s as simple as listening to an audio version of a language lesson while you drive to work. The simplest efforts can make a difference.

Play Games

Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, chess, checkers and Scrabble are all games you can play with your friends and family to help your brain process faster and more efficiently. Brain teasers can be found through apps and online games on your computer, hand-held device, or smartphone. Not only will they keep you busy while you are in a waiting room, but you can invite your friends and even the grandkids to play along. You can have fun and improve your mental fitness at the same time!