Brain health is an ever growing concern as people age. Alzheimer’s is the second most feared illness in America. What if we could help ward off the effects of this and other brain diseases? What if we could not only battle disease, but could also help increase everyone’s ability – young and old, to learn, reason, and remember things? Well guess what, we can. The science behind brain fitness provides exciting insights into how to maximize our brain health.
Here are the five pillars of brain fitness:
Pillar 1: Nutritional Guidelines
Proper nutritional habits are associated with better brain health (ratings like Guiding Stars can help you make better food choices)
- Decrease saturated fat (fats solid at room temperature) and sugar in your diet
- Increasing intake of antioxidants (found in beans, berries, apples, nuts, etc) & omega 3 fatty acids (including fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts. sprouts, kale, etc)
Pillar 2: Stress Management
- Reduce cortisol, increase rest/recovery. Cortisol increases with stress. Elevated levels of cortisol interfere with the brain’s energy supply, the function of neurotransmitters, and helps increase free-radicals that damage brain cells. Reducing stress (through exercise, meditation, etc.) can help keep cortisol in check.
Pillar 3: Physical Exercise
- As little as 3 hours/week of cardiovascular can stimulate increases in Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), described as “Miracle Grow” for the brain
Pillar 4: Mental Stimulation
- Variety, challenge, novelty are essential to brain function. Just like our bodies responding to physical exercise, our brains respond to the challenge of mental exercise. What kinds of new, different things can you try?
Pillar 5: Social Interaction
- Create more opportunities to interact, build friendships. The more friends and daily interactions you have, the better it is for your brain function.
There you have it. The things we can take control of to enhance our brain health and function. Of course, as a Personal Trainer, I like to point out that pillars 2-5 can be found in a fun, friendly health club. So get to it. As the saying goes, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Mark Nutting, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT-AR*D, National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 Personal Trainer of the Year, holds 12 certifications in the field and has 30 years experience in personal training. A national presenter and an educator of Personal Trainers, Mark’s areas of expertise include weight loss, post-rehab conditioning, and brain fitness.