Contrary to the myth taught in school that brain cells die and never recover, scientists have discovered that this is simply not the case. In fact our brains are very powerful and always evolving by what we see, think and do. Simply put, the brain develops new synaptic connections via a process known as neuroplasticity when we learn something new. This occurs in a part of the brain known as the hippocampus which is responsible for memory. Thinking while exercising allows us to use our pre-frontal cortex responsible for executive function and this involves concentration and memory as indicated in the exercises below.
Therefore a person is never too old to develop new connections in the brain as long as he/she is engaged in some form of activity to stimulate the brain. Of course, eating a healthy diet, getting sufficient sleep and maintaining a positive outlook on life also helps to further this process. In my experience working with older adults, I have seen positive results with exercise slowing down the aging process and allowing them to recall vivid memories even in persons with dementia. Here are 3 fun ways to boost the brain while exercising:
- Bounce a ball back and forth to someone with your non-dominant hand while reciting countries using the alphabet and alternating letters.
- Count and alternate numbers with a partner going back and forth and performing a motion without saying the number for example #1 squats, #2 lunges and #3 raises the hand.
- Walk sideways pretending to step over an object while counting by 2’s in a different language.