Here’s a fun exercise. Shower with your eyes closed. With slow, deliberate movements, locate the shower handle, shampoo bottle and soap. Regulate the water temperature. Also, close your eyes as you get into the car and locate the ignition. By shutting your vision off, you allow your tactile sense to get to work.
Take in new smells and flavors. Instead of going to your usual supermarket, try an ethnic or farmer’s market. You will experience new sights and new aromas. Instead of Starbucks coffee, perhaps the Lebanese stall in the ethnic market has excellent coffee beans. Use your least active hand – the non-dominant one – to perform your daily rituals: combing, brushing your teeth, putting on make-up, zippering up, eating your cereals or toast, clicking on the mouse. Wake up to vanilla instead of freshly-brewed coffee. We all like to get out of bed and reach out for our first morning cup. Instead, we ought to try smelling something different aromas – peppermint, vanilla or cacao. Dr. Katz says that by linking a different aroma to our morning routine, we activate new pathways in our brain.
Go to your local library and borrow a book on Braille. Dr. Katz recommends an exercise learning the Braille numbers for the various floors of your office or school building. You can also obtain Braille numbers information on Wikipedia.org.
Traveling abroad soon? How about forgetting the tour bus and the five-star hotel and instead renting car, figuring out the map, and heading for a small town where you don’t speak the language?
Dr. Katz and Manning Rubin published a book, Keep Your Brain Alive, published by Workman Publishing Co. If you need further information, you can also call Duke, at 1-888-ASK-DUKE.
- Physical Fitness and Brain Health
You may have wondered about actual fitness exercises. Does being physically fit help the brain?
Definitely, says the Harvard article published for Women’s Health Watch. In laboratories using rodents for experiments, scientists have discovered that rodents who spend most of their time running on exercise wheels have better brains than their more sedentary mates. Similar studies in the past have not found any conclusive evidence that fitness improves brain functions, but a breakthrough study – the first of its kind – was conducted by the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign campus) wherein 55 subjects aged 55-79 were measured for their aerobic capacity during walking and treadmill tests. The subjects were a mixture of sedentary and physically active individuals. The conclusion, published in the Journal of Gerontology three years ago, revealed that “physically fit subjects had less age-related brain tissue shrinkage than less active subjects.” With the use of an MRI machine, researchers spotted distinct differences in the frontal, temporal and parietal regions of the brain – where tissues in these regions were vital for memory, learning and cell communication functions.
A related experiment also showed that aerobic fitness training largely influenced the cognitive abilities of women and men aged 55-80. It was learned that exercise benefited human abilities such as attention, organization and planning, and that a combined program of aerobics and strength training were more effective than aerobics alone. Finally, it was also discovered that exercising for less than 30 minutes per session did not have any significant impact on cognitive functions. In the next Chapter, we will discuss…er…hmmm….oh yes, memory!