Does Brain Exercise help?
We read in a lot of places that exercising your brain can help prevent dementia.
Is that true? If so, what makes sense to try?
No one can say for certain that exercise can prevent or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Still, some are certain that it helps, and there is a complete industry of brain-related exercises. You can get apps, web pages, games, workbooks, foods, and more. Is it all about the money .. capitalizing on our fear of dementia? or, does it work?
First, if we think it does help, that is itself helpful. So, look at sites like these for apps and games … some of these aim for “wellness”, others for exercises for your brain and thinking skills…
- Lumosity. …
- CogniFit Brain Fitness. …
- Personal Zen. …
- Brain Trainer Special. …
- Brain Fitness Pro. …
- Happify. …
- Positive Activity Jackpot. …
- Fit Brains Trainer.
And more! The NIH has a site too.
You can exercise your thinking, and that is always good.
But, Can it help with Alzheimer’s?
Some researchers think so, based on this general theory … if cognition improves in people without dementia due to brain exercise, then it must be of some benefit to those who do. Here is an article on Brain Exercise from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK. But, they also point out that there is no evidence that brain exercise delays Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association in the US says this: “At this time, there is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Personally, I know that my ability to “think” diminished over the years. I didn’t notice it, but it was certainly apparent when I went to Law School. Now, I didn’t start until I was 51 … well after most lawyers get their start! But, the key here is that I thought I was in fine shape, mentally.
When I got to class, I realized I would have to read, and remember, hundreds of pages of information … every night! I hadn’t read hundreds of pages in one day for 30 years! It was a struggle to re-learn how to learn. And, it took the whole first semester.
The important point? I turned the corner, and was able to learn, and retain massive amounts of information. Which proves two things to me … one, certain skills I had before atrophied, and two, exercising those skills brought them back.
So, I am a believer that brain exercise helps. I’m not so sure about avoiding Alzheimer’s, but exercising your brain is a very good thing!
What about body exercise?
Oh, yes, one more cool thing … physical exercise can help your brain too!
You know you feel better when you have a little exercise in your daily routine. That has a known reason. But, if you exercise, it turns out that you are also repairing neurons through “neurogenesis”. Since Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia have as one process the destruction of neurons, it is possible that exercise can slow the progression. Active mice show more nerve regeneration than inactive ones. Hopefully, our brains act like the mice brains!
So, be active, both mentally AND physically!