stores, and interacting with new people, can have a very beneficial impact on brain stimulation, not to mention making life more interesting. So make it a point to call a different distant old friend or family member every day to vary your conversation and stir up different old memories on a consistent basis.
As each new research study on cognitive conditioning is published, new products and services are being introduced to help provide productive, beneficial stimulation to our brains. Much of the new wave of products is computer-based because it enables the user (you) to be more interactive, see a greater variety of tasks, and automatically increase the level of difficulty as your brain progresses. But while “paper-based” brain teasers, as they are now called, are being de-emphasized by some researchers, there is still a place for them in the overall cognitive conditioning programs of seniors. So go ahead and surf the internet for all the latest computer-based brain stimulation techniques. But in the interest of simplicity and variety, don’t forget the old standbys – crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, trivia games, problem solving brain teasers, and so many others. Also, the “paper-based” visual perception games can be very valuable elements of your overall cognitive conditioning program.
And by the way, the old adage of exercise ”no pain, no gain” has long since been proven to be a falsehood for building muscle or increasing physical stamina. So don’t fall to the temptation of pushing your brain to exercise until it hurts!! It will only make you grow tired of brain exercises in the long run, and give you a headache right now. And be sure to make time for non-painful physical exercise (see our article called “Exercise for Elders – Getting Started”), along with your cognitive conditioning program. A healthy mind and a healthy body are the keys to a long, fulfilling life.
trainer at your local gym will tell you to exercise all parts of your body, and to do both cardiovascular and strength training, the latest cognitive research is uncovering the need for not only continual learning, but for testing and stretching the abilities of various parts of our brains.
Remember the old comic illustrations of the body builder who concentrated solely on doing “curls for the girls,” building up only his arms. What did his legs look like in comparison? They made him look like a fattened turkey supported on toothpicks. This illustrates the emerging belief, supported by research, that limiting your cognitive conditioning program to doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, while beneficial, is not enough to keep your brain in good condition. Like the body as a whole, the brain is a “system” with various parts that interact with and are dependent on one another. So for the brain as a whole to remain vital and healthy, we need to exercise all parts, including but not limited to reasoning, visual perception, and memory.
New research is also uncovering another less recognized effect that our lives have on our brains. Aside from inactivity, there are other forces that serve to undermine and weaken our brains and our cognitive abilities. Similar to the way that eating junk food robs our bodies of much needed energy, anxiety and stress have a similar effect on our brains by wasting brain power on unproductive thought processes. Under-stimulation from a dull and routine life also tends to result in diminished learning capacity, not to mention just being boring. So dig yourself out of your rut and take your doctor’s advice to reduce the stress in your life. Or at least do some research on how to manage and deal with the stress you can’t seem to eliminate. For your daily routine, even the simplest changes, like varying your route getting to work and local