The top 5 ways to exercise your mind

The top 5 ways to exercise your mind

This may be my most personal blog yet and is not about exercising your body but exercising your mind.

Earlier this year, after my Mother had yet another fall, it was decided it was too much for Dad to look after her. So we made the difficult decision that when she left the hospital, she would be placed in the dementia ward of the aged care centre.

As anyone who has been through something similar with their parents or loved ones knows, dementia is one of the cruellest diseases to experience. It is heartbreaking to see someone who is healthy, smart and independent deteriorate so fast and become so frail in mind and body and needing help for the most basic day to day functions.

Of course added to this is the knowledge I may never see my Mother again under the current circumstances with Coronavirus, it only makes the situation even more heartbreaking.

It made me think was there any way this could have been avoided or could anything more have been done to reduce the risk of developing dementia? Especially when compared with my Dad who, though is now having a lot of mobility issues, is still pretty sharp when it comes to his mind and memory.

From talking to doctors and my own research, I concluded that one of the best ways to prevent cognitive decline and to reduce the risk of dementia is to exercise your mind. So here are my top 5 ways to exercise your mind and boost your brain.

1. Exercise

Yes that’s right, in order to ensure your mind is in top shape, you must stay physically active.

Any exercise is great but to really keep the mind strong, try a different type of exercise. Instead of getting on the treadmill (which I always found so boring), try a light jog outside. Or how about bushwalking, cycling, tennis, gardening, swimming, yoga, running and strength training.

2. Sleep

Sleeping well directly affects your physically and mentally. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can take a big toll on your energy and emotional strength.
Research suggests that a solid night’s sleep can go a long way to staving off the mental effects of getting older.

Sleep benefits the mind in many ways. Not only does it give your brain a chance to lock in memories so you’re able to recall things like your child’s first birthday for years to come, it also enhances the ability to memorise new skills. Plus, the sleep you get now may have a long-term influence on your risk for cognitive decline as you age.

3 Eat well

Diet is one factor researchers are investigating for its role in reducing the risk of dementia and for the assistance a healthy diet may provide to people who have dementia.

Some research has linked aspects of diet with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It is clear that a healthy balanced diet is important for everyone, to help prevent other health problems and ensure sufficient intake of essential nutrients.

4. Get out and socialise

Social interaction is healthy, like exercise for the brain, and can slow symptoms including deteriorating memory. In fact, staying socially engaged with friends and family has been shown to boost self-esteem, which for people with dementia means better eating habits, more exercise, and better sleep.

Staying socially active has always been good advice for staying happy and healthy. Now research shows just how meaningful those conversations and connections can be. People who are more socially active in their 50s and 60s tend to have a lower risk of developing dementia.

Though this is a challenge under current circumstances, being social is so important in keeping the brain healthy. So whether it is a walk in the park with a friend, a phone call,  a Zoom/Facetime session, ensure you keep communicating to keep that sense of belonging and not feeling alone.

5. Try something new on a regular basis

When it comes to trying something new, this could be anything – learn a new language, take up a photography course, learn how to swim better, do some volunteering, improve your computer skills, do some crossword puzzles, take some dancing lessons or try a tai chi class.

Learning a new skill as you get older is one of the best ways to keep your brain sharp and gives you a new lease on life.

Though all of the above won’t guarantee you don’t develop this disease, by regularly challenging your mind, there is an increased chance to delay the symptoms and is a key to staving off dementia. It could make the difference between living a long and healthy life and ending up in aged care.