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Published on: September 27, 2014
by Susan Scutti for Medical Daily:
The wellness movement basically killed food — we can no longer enjoy a good meal based purely on taste and pleasure, now we all have to be worrying about what each little morsel we put in our mouths is doing for us. How tiresome! As if that’s not bad enough, now the health crowd is coming for your BRAIN! Scaring all of us with their Alzheimer’s statistics, they’ve made it so it’s no longer enough to take a natural interest in what’s happening around us like normal human beings. Nooooo — now we’re all supposed to be “participating” in “activities” that “stimulate cognitive function.” (Give me a B, give me an O, give me an R-I-N-G — BORING!)
For those of you who prefer slacking your way through life, here’s a simple list you can spew off to anyone wanting to foist a language class on you.
Dancing makes you smarter. Plus, it “protects against dementia,” according to scientists, who say it lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s by a heart-stopping 76 percent. The explanation comes down to the fact that dancing increases your neural connectivity by involving several brain regions and functions — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — all at once. It also requires you make split-second decisions, especially when you’re on a crowded floor or two-stepping with a partner and trying to avoid awkward bumping or to blend your moves. Whether you’re gliding through a waltz or block rockin’ beats, it requires brains, coordination, and skill. There’s lots of research, if you care to read it, but why not trust us and just turn up the volume and start dancing around your room instead? You’re welcome.
Is this one any surprise? Reading, or, as we like to say, watching a mental movie, provides a 35 percent reduction in the risk of dementia. According to Stanford researchers, reading requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions with blood flow increasing in specific regions, while a Canadian researcher insists reading improves your vocabulary, increases your world knowledge, and boosts your abstract reasoning skills. Whether you read for sheer pleasure or carefully observe literary style as you go, your brain is exercising in more complex ways than happen when you are either working or playing. So, pick up a book. Open. Move your eyes down the page. Imagine. Repeat as necessary.
It’s all fun and games, or so the saying goes, it’s a phrase used often and for good reason. Anytime you gather together a bunch of people and have them compete over some nonsensical goal — monopolizing the real estate market in Atlantic City anyone? — the yucks begin to flow. Meanwhile, the players will be using and improving their number skills, deductive reasoning abilities, and critical thinking dexterity all while they un-rust their brain improving social talents. Even loner games, like Sudoku, can help you lower the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s: working on a crossword puzzle, for example, at least four days a week can provide you with a 47 percent reduction in dementia risk. Invite your friends and break out the board… it’s for your health.
What’s more fun than floating around a pool and making the occasional breast stroke to stay afloat? Believe it or not, simply immersing yourself in water up to the level of your heart increased brain blood flow when compared to being on land. A team of Australian researchers discovered, whenever participants were immersed in water, blood flow to their middle cerebral arteries increased by 14 percent and blood flow to their posterior cerebral arteries increased by nine percent. If you must, go ahead and swim, but the real point is simply being in water moves the blood to your brain.
Play an Instrument
If it’s fun to you, play an instrument with the full knowledge that you are improving your brain. Better still, there’s slender proof that anyone who has ever taken music lessons will be better off as they move into their twilight years. The reason is learning an instrument, which involves muscle memory and fingers moving in separate ways, causes structural changes to the brain and increases plasticity all in ways unrivaled by any other activity. What is fascinating, too, is that the adults who benefited the most in older age from any amount of instrument playing in their earlier years were those with lower educational levels. Remember: music smarts are not “lesser” smarts.
It may seem easy, but there’s good reason we’ve worked sex into this list. According to a Rutgers University study, orgasms increase blood flow to virtually all areas of the brain, while also promoting oxygenation and the distribution of nutrients. In fact, it works better than the previously mentioned crossword puzzles. Before you outright dismiss the results of this study, consider for a moment that pleasure begins and ends in the brain so anything that produces pleasure, certainly including orgasm, must exercise particular regions and pathways. Enough with theories and explanations: Have at it.
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