We all know and understand how important it is to train our bodies to get and keep them strong and healthy, but how often do you think about training your brain?
In my job as a certified older adult fitness instructor I do a lot of work with brain training – whether my participants realize it or not. I tend to joke about it telling them to make sure their brains are turned on before I start, and they laugh and giggle when they can’t follow the pattern. They may not realize that those sections of their class are me training their brain, helping to keep them sharp and to ward off dementia – but in reality that’s what I’m doing. Working to help them improve their memory and helping to prevent memory loss, all while having fun.
But they only are with me a few hours a week, and brain training is something that we should all incorporate into our daily lives. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have time to add yet another thing into your daily schedule – I totally get that. That’s why I’m going to tell you five ways you can train your brain daily without having to add another thing on your to-do list.
- Take a Zumba class. I know a lot of you already take or teach Zumba, whichever side of the spectrum you are on, Zumba is training your brain! For participants, having to follow non-verbal cues from your instructor means you are paying attention and processing information quickly. You are using the music to help you stay on beat and determining when to switch to the next move. If you are teaching I know you are using your brain to keep track of where in the song you are, how many counts are left of the current move, what the next move will be, cueing the next move all while still dancing and monitoring everyone else. And in both cases you are improving circulation and stimulating brain growth. Boom!
- Brush your teeth with your non dominant hand. This is probably best done at night when you’re not in a hurry as it’ll take a bit longer, and will be a bit messy. But you’ll be amazed at how much more you have to think to clean your teeth using your opposite hand!
- Recite the alphabet backwards. I often do this at night if I’m having trouble falling asleep. I always start off slowly, but after 5 or 6 times I can suddenly run through the whole alphabet backwards almost as quickly as I can forwards.
- Don’t use a calculator for simple math. Sure if you are multiplying or dividing a long list of numbers a calculator will be faster, but if you have to add a couple numbers together, or multiple two numbers why not take pen to paper and do it the old fashioned way?
- Play a game. We have a set of magnetic scrabble pieces on our fridge and my husband and I have a game of scrabble always on the go. We tend to theme the game (currently our game is Harry Potter related terms), and we take turns adding words until we run out of letters. It isn’t time consuming and it’s fun when you realize it’s your turn and get to play!
Those are just a few simple things you can do to train your brain. Want more? The Complete Brain Exercise Book by Fraser Smith, BA, MATD, ND is a wonderful resourse filled with activities, exercises and recipes to help you improve memory, language, motor skills and more.
I was sent a copy of the book by their publishing company and have been really enjoying reading through it and learning new ways and ideas for training my brain (and the brains of my participants!). I really appreciate that the book not only explains what we can do physically to help our brains, but also what we can eat to nutritionally provide us with the best chance for long lived brain health.
Do you have a favourite tip or trick for keeping your brain strong and sharp? Let me know in the comments!