Brain exercise for wellness and mindfulness is important at any time but especially in times of stress or uncertainty. We have evolved to move, for both our bodies and our brain. Both have become fine-tuned to overcome challenges and crisis across the centuries. Research is showing the toll this relatively new sedentary lifestyle is taking on our bodies. In the U.S. the expected life span of younger generations will be shorter and unhealthier than the lives of their parents. Doctors tell us we should be going to the gym, exercise daily, and eat the right kind of food.
While this advice is helpful, many of us forget about another important part of ourselves: our brain. If all accept that psychical exercise is good for our bodies then you should also accept what medical research has long suspected, that the same holds true for our brains. Numerous university and medical research projects have gone into examining the effect of brain training and brain exercise to improve attention, memory, and IQ. Published studies now show very consistent findings that the brain works better after exercise.
The past decade has provided psychologists and scientists with the tools to understand the mechanisms at play to improve our brain via exercise. We know that Relational Frame Training alongside other brain exercise routines lead to changes in how the brain operates. The effect has bolstered the ability of kids to learn, given adults increases relating to cognitive tasks, and even to reduce the cognitive decline associate with aging.
So, let’s talk about the impact of brain exercise for wellness has on your head and your heart.
During brain exercise it becomes much more active than at any other time. All of us have two types of brain waves caused by synchronized pules, these are lower frequency and higher frequency waves. The lower frequency waves are to do with tasks such as washing, sleeping, shopping and other routine tasks. While higher frequency waves (known as beta waves) occur when we are mentally active and are associated with our attention, working memory and mental processing capabilities.
Researchers have found that brain exercise has an impact on both the amplitude and frequency of brain waves. This means we become more alert and engaged. Similar to our overall health, if we don’t exercise our bodies, it will deteriorate over time, same goes for our brains if we don’t exercise it.
Very similar to the way that our muscles require a lot more energy during exercise, the brain consumes glucose and other carbohydrates when it and our bodies are active.
Scientists have discovered that our brains will use some of this energy to build more neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals that relay messages around our nervous system. The conclusion is that brain exercise and physical activity has the effect of restocking our brains with essential neurotransmitters to operate optimally.
In fact, this may be why exercise in general has been shown to alleviate depression.
A Younger Brain
We know from published studies which suggest that exercise kickstarts the production of growth factors which nourish new neurons while helping existing cells survive. One such study found that mentally and psychically active people tend to have healthier blood vessels plus a brain that appears to be younger.
While these changes in our brains can take at a few weeks to develop, they do lead to long lasting improvements in the regions of our brains associated with cognitive tasks such as working memory.
Research carried out in the 1990’s showed that our brain will reach its peak performance between the ages of 16 and 25. After that, our cognitive functioning or our ability to mentally process and carry out tasks starts to decline naturally. So, our ability to change, process certain tasks, and introduce new processes will become harder.
We should understand the importance of this since brain exercise programs have been are designed to keep our brain functional. A few simple examples of this is being able to do our daily tasks, remembering information, retaining memories, and ability to focus. This may not seem a big issue now, however it will become more relevant as we age when the threat of dementia, amnesia, or Alzheimer’s appear, issues that could be reduced through regular brain exercise.
Even more research into aging adults and brain exercise have shown an increase in Gray matter volume in regions of the brain associated with general intelligence and executive functions. This includes everything from our attention skills to planning to our problem-solving capabilities.
Increased Focus and Concentration Skills
Regular exercise changes the number of neurons in our brains and how they communicate. People who exercise regularly show increased connectivity between parts of the brain involved in memory, attention, decision-making, multitasking, and processing information. At the same time, people who focus on skills and repeated attention to detail tasks have lower connections with a region of our brains usual associated to mind wandering. This indicates that fit and healthy people may have increased focus or concentration skills.
Doctor Bryan Roche and Doctor Sarah Cassidy, the co-founders of RaiseYourIQ have published several scientific papers on our Relational Frame Training can increase your IQ and other gains relating to improving cognition and brain fitness. Dr. Roche has developed an online intervention, based on Relational Frame Theory, that is the only intervention currently known by psychologists to increase IQ by clinically significant degrees (around 15 points) for many or most users. This method is known as SMART (Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training).
Dr. Roche also conducts research into fear and avoidance as part of wider interest in anxiety, and has developed a new implicit test, built from first learning principles, called the FAST (Function Acquisition Speed Test), also available online as a test and in modified form as a therapeutic intervention to enhance psychological flexibility in the context of troubling emotional issues.
There are numerous reasons to consider a brain exercise regime just the same as physical exercise to maintain our health. Brain training exercise do not take very long and can easily become part and parcel of our daily lives. Furthermore, we now know that a brain exercise program can improve our focus, learning, working memory, IQ and most importantly, our ability to enjoy undertaking daily activity with ease.