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Sharp Minds - Top 7 Brain Exercises

• Written by Josh

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Updated 06/02/2020

We've all suffered from a 'senior moment' at some point in our lives. Whether it's forgetting someone's name, or walking into a room and forgetting what we went in there for. These temporary memory lapses can happen to anyone, old or young. What with growing concerns over dementia, and general forgetfulness, it's important to keep your brain active.

Today's post will suggest seven brain exercises which you can do to help keep your mind sharp, enhancing your memory and giving your brain a workout in the process. First, let's take a brief look at cognitive decline.

Cognitive Concerns

Many over 65's worry about their memory; given recent studies relating to Dementia in footballers and the growing number of cases and Alzheimers, it's no surprise that it would be concerning.  However, occasional lapses can just be down to general changes in the brain's functioning and structure. In other words, it happens to all of us! Cognitive decline is expected as we reach our elder years to a certain extent, however serious cognitive dysfunction such as constant forgetfulness or more frequent memory loss can be caused by certain disorders, brain injuries or illnesses.

Cognitive decline is very complex to measure. It's difficult to say what age you can expect to see changes in mind functionality as everyone is different, however as discussed before there are more serious things to look out for, which can point to diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease and dementia.

Common signs of such diseases include:

  • Memory loss that affects day-to-day function.
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
  • Confusion regarding time and place.
  • Language problems
  • Problems with abstract thinking.
  • Poor or decreased judgement.
  • Misplacing things.

Of course, if these symptoms stick around for a while or you are worried about your lapses in memory, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. If you're unsure, we'd recommend keeping a diary of times you can't remember a long period, so you can document these.

Top 7 Brain Exercises

So what are some the ways in which we can keep our minds sharp and enhance our memory? Well, here're seven brain exercises that you can do to help:

1. Use your Senses

One of the best brain exercises that you can do to keep your mind sharp is to use all of your senses daily. The more senses used in our day to day lives, particularly whilst learning, then the easier it is to retain that information in our memories. This could be anything from doing a puzzle, to the crossword in the paper. There are also now several brain training apps for the more tech savvy amongst us.

2. Switch it up

Rather than doing things the same every day why not switch it up? Change your routine and add tasks that require you to use different parts of your brain. Take a different route if you go for a walk, or mend that broken thing you've been meaning to get to. Whatever it is, it will help!

3. Learn 

Through continuing to learn you're stimulating the brain and keeping mentally active. Perhaps you could take up a new hobby, learn a new skill, or take part in a new activity. Puzzles, such as jigsaws, Sudoku and crosswords, are a great example of this, not only do they require critical thinking but they also stimulate the mind and provide fun along the way.

Other activities which will put your minds to the test would be learning to play a new musical instrument or taking up the challenge of building a model car or train.

4. Eat Well

Eating the right foods helps towards keeping a healthy brain. Certain foods are packed full of vital vitamins and minerals essential to properly functioning organs. Of course, eating a balanced healthy diet is great for the whole body, reducing the risk of other medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

If you're struggling to dietary ideas, take a look at our guides to the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.

5. Exercise

Alongside the healthy diet, you should also ensure that you're getting plenty of exercise. Sadly, a high percentage of adults over the age of 65 spend, on average, more than 10 hours of each day sitting or lying down. In reality, you should be taking part in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.

Keeping physically active has also shown to trigger brain cell growth and releases important proteins vital to good cognitive function. There are so many different exercise routines and sports for you to choose from too, such as swimming and squash. Of course, taking part in sport is also fun and there is a high chance that you'll make new friends and extend your social network.

If you can't decide which sport is for you, take a look through our top 7 picks. Alternatively, you could keep it simple and go for a run in the morning - this activity has plenty of health and mental benefits.

6. Sleep

Getting enough sleep, at the right time, is crucial to keeping a sharp mind. Late nights and little sleep can cause lack of concentration, lapses in memory and an overall feeling of tiredness. This can cause huge problems for you, both at home and at work, and it can even be potentially life threatening to you and the people around you.

Tips on getting a good night sleep, on a regular basis, include:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, only going to bed when you're actually tired.
  • Try and relax in the hour leading up to your bed time.
  • Avoid looking a bright mobile phone or computer screens close to bed time. Try reading a book instead.
  • Ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible by using blackout curtains and blinds.

Find out more about insomnia and how to beat it.

7. Stay in the loop

Another way to keep the mind sharp is through keeping up to date on current affairs, also socialising and interacting with people as much as you can. This keeps the brain stimulated, and again uses both your visual and speech skills.

So there we have it, just a few brain exercises which can help to keep your mind as sharp as a button - no matter your age. 

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