Exercising your brain: use it or lose it 49



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Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body. Recent research in the field of neuroscience has revealed that the brain, like all our other muscles, operates on a “use it or lose it” regime.

Dr. Michael Merzenich is a world leading researcher in the field of brain plasticity and he offers some suggestions on how we can maintain and improve our brain health:


Start a brain fitness program like BrainHQ

These exercises have been specifically designed with all of these principles in mind, and have been clinically proven to change and improve the brain. This is the most efficient and secure way to ensure you are keeping your brain in shape.


Study a new language, and master it at a usable conversational level

Work on accurately receiving — and on accurately producing — word sounds for at least 10 to 30 minutes every day. Put your learning on a schedule and take it seriously.


Develop a habit of careful conversational listening

One strategy might be to test how much you remember about every conversation in person or on the telephone, soon after and again a few hours after that conversation has ended.


If you have an interest in music, rekindle it through careful listening or through performance

Musical performance exercises reading, listening, fine and high-speed manual control, and often, other special oral skills.



Find a volunteer position in which you can use your language skills in interaction with other people.


Jigsaw puzzles

A simple, classical form of visual challenge that, in principle, should be good for your brain. If that sounds a little low-tech, let me remind you that doing a jigsaw puzzle requires your close, focused attention, and that you must make fast decisions based on shape and colour and visual textures to be successful.


Painting or art

These offer many of the same multimodal virtues. In vision, the sculptor, potter, painter, furniture maker, wood turner, jewellery maker, glass sculpture, or etcher is continuously shifting attention between fine details and a grand perspective, both in their mind and in their actions.


Tennis or other games

Ball-in-motion challenges put your visual reception machinery and action-control machinery in motion simultaneously. Games that require fast visual tracking, that drive your brain to rapidly move your eyes, and that lead to fast and highly flexible motor responses are very beneficial for both the brain and body.


When you go for a walk, have a social visit, go shopping, or have any other experiences away from home, you should try to develop the habit of reconstructing all of the things that you experienced on that outing, and work to reconstruct those things that defined specific, memorable scenes.


What do you to keep your brain active? What activities have you tried? Let us know!


Paul McKeon

Paul McKeon is the founder of the website www.mylifechange.com.au and the publisher of 3 books about lifestyle issues affecting people in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The books are titled – “The Rest of Your Life”, “Relationships in our 50s – 60s and beyond” and “How to stay Healthy, Active and Sharp in Retirement”. All the books can be purchased on his web site. He had a career in marketing, tourism, sports promotion and publishing in Australia, the UK and S.E. Asia. His books and website stress that a successful retirement is about more than good money management and people need to consider the important lifestyle issues if they are going to find lasting happiness.

  1. Scrabble, cross words, U3A classes, Pilates, walking. Coffees and meals with friends and family also keep you on your toes.

  2. Sudoku (addicted to it), Scrabble and Words with Friends (on line), reading and I subscribe to luminosity. But I still find time for fb

  3. Learning Line Dancing and ‘NewVogue’ Dancing needs brain power to take it all in to co-ordinate brains and feet at the right time and rhythm.

  4. Scrabble, Words with Friends, skip-bo, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, logic problems, digital scrapbooking and journaling, taking and editing photos, writing, talking with people (apparently I am a story teller!!!), taking care to listen and understand what they are telling me….used to learn languages, and shorthand, and sing…kept my mind active back then, maybe I need to do it again!!!

  5. Volunteering (lots of it and all different – in an office, a garden, teaching, and compeer), Sudoku (addictive) paint, draw, go to printmaking classes. Other craft hobbies. Lots of organising for activities. Don’t think I could master a second language – I have enough trouble with English. LOL

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