Like a muscle, our brain has “plasticity” – the ability to grow, repair and develop new connections well into adult life. One of the best ways to enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity is moderate aerobic exercise. Researchers at the Salk Institute have shown that daily, moderate aerobic exercise actually “wakes up” dormant stem cells in the brain’s short-term memory center, producing new neurons and helping counteract aging’s effects.
Brain exercises can help promote plasticity too. But crossword puzzles and duplicate bridge may not be enough “heavy lifting.” Most effective are brain exercises that increase processing speed, such as learning the game Guitar Hero or the fast steps of a salsa dance. Some companies, like PositScience, have developed computer games for adults that focus on just that – building up the speed of our reactions and making our brains functionally younger in the process.
Exercise is great, but our brains also need rest and relaxation. While we sleep, our brains undergo crucial repair work. And that will be our next step to brain health.