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Training the brain

Do you ever have trouble remembering where you put your keys? Difficulty multi tasking? Or even trouble making decisions? All of these issues can occur as we age, but instead of attributing it to just plain “getting older” there are actually several ways to prevent the onset of cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment typically refers to general conditions of memory loss, having trouble paying attention or finding the right words, issues with reasoning, and are also lumped in with the inevitability of aging. The elements of cognition include memory, problem solving, language skills, reasoning, and conceptualization.

Memory refers to short and long term recall, and can affect many aspects of life, such as remembering appointments or if you left the stove on. Problem solving and reasoning skills indicate the ability to take non-related facts and reach a logical conclusion, as well as the ability to reach a solution to problems. Conceptualization correlates to abstract thought, and language is the verbal and written skill used to express those thoughts.

It happens just like muscle atrophy; literally if you don’t use it, you lose it. I am sure you have met an older adult, or even a family member, who struggles with cognitive abilities. But we also know of many elderly people who have somehow avoided this curse. In fact, I have a friend who will be 70 this year, and he holds four degrees, 9 black belts in various martial arts disciplines, and still skis regularly! What is the difference? How does one avoid the mental decline?

Research shows the best way to combat cognitive impairment is simple- maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and engage in mentally stimulating activities. There is a growing body of research that indicates the brain keeps developing past the age of 30. Try the following strategies to keep your brain fit, healthy, and growing!

*Regular cardiovascular exercise

Engaging in cardiovascular activity, such as a brisk walk, three times a week for 30 minutes has been associated with a boost in the area of the brain associated with memory.

* Lift weights!

Studies on the benefits of strength training twice weekly have shown improvement on participants performance on thinking and memory tests.

*Challenge your thinking

Crossword puzzles, taking an art class, or driving somewhere without using GPS are all ways to keep your brain fresh and active.

Sara Simanskey

NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist