To Exercise or Not to Exercise -What does YOUR Brain Do?

Michio Kaku once said, “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” So, with that being said, just how do we exercise our brain in such a way as to keep it at it’s healthiest?

Muscle or Organ?

Have you always thought that the brain was a muscle? Well, actually it’s not a muscle in the sense we think of, it consists of neurons and glial cells, not muscle fibers and just like muscles can improve, so can the brain.

Then it must be an organ? Yes, it is part of our Central Nervous System and works closely with our Endocrine System.

Ok, then how can we proceed to exercise it?

Home-Based

Here are just a few things you can do at home:

  • Teach yourself something “new” – you might try things like learning a musical instrument, quilting, digital photography – this challenges your memory compared to just watching television or listening to music
  • Learn a new language – this will help stretch your mind as you continue to accomplish new things
  • Socialize more – by doing this, you can engage multiple areas of the brain – maybe play some sports, take on volunteering
  • Improve your memory and cognitive abilities – Try working on a jigsaw puzzle, play card games such as: gin rummy, poker, crazy eights, bridge, solitaire and hearts
  • Build up your vocabulary – It’s a great idea to always learn new words but did you know that it can also help stimulate your brain’s visual and processing areas
  • Dance !! – Dance? What? How could this help? – Learning new dance moves makes you think and it will help your speed and memory abilities- So Have FUN with it !
  • Make sure your diet is right – Eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol as well as high in antioxidants
  • Do the opposite – Try writing with your opposite hand – This isn’t easy for some of us – this should really make you focus

Did you know ?

  • According to Bennet Omalu M.D. , “It takes the brain about 1/10,000th of a second to respond to something and generate an action.”
  • Brain waves are actually more active when we’re dreaming
  • Did you know that your brain can make new neurons?
  • Memories start forming in the womb as early as 4 months in to the pregnancy – (Prenatal Memory – Wikipedia)
  • Neurons travel 150mph in the brain (National Geographic)
  • The brain is incapable of forming memories when we’re intoxicated – Yukitoshi Izumi, research professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said: ‘We’ve found that exposure to alcohol inhibits some receptors and later activates others, causing neurons to manufacture steroids that inhibit memory formation.’
  • Even though we access information quickly through the internet, it actually makes it harder for our brains to remember compared to the harder we have to work for the information, the easier it is to remember.
  • According to the Huffington Post, the average brain has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts daily -most being negative; it’s no wonder that our bodies look older than we are sometimes
  • Did you know that 95 percent of all decisions we make take place our subconscious mind? Wow !! (Science Daily)
  • According to Time Magazine, the attention span is shorter than a goldfish and has decreased by 12 minutes over the span of 10 years

Can Your Brain Play Tricks On You?

I would venture to say, “Why Yes it can.” But how? Has it ever occurred to you that your brain is sometimes in “lazy” mode? What do I mean by that you say? Well, simply put, this is done by heuristics, a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. One example of this is when our brain relies on what has worked well in the past, as in if you are afraid to fly because you think it’s more dangerous than driving, then your brain is actually using what is known as availability heuristic. In reality flying is much safer than driving, but your brain if fooling you into believing that it is much more dangerous than it really is.

Here are a few fun Mind Trick questions you can play on your family or friends:

  • Want to get a giggle or two out of your friends? Ask this mind trick question: ” Jane’s mother has four children: May, June, July and …” Now more than likely most people will say August but that’s not right . The answer is Jane.
  • “How can a man go eight days without sleep?” Betcha you’ll stump them with this one 🙂 The answer is: By sleeping at night ….see, it’s the simple thinking … but you’ll have them overthinking a lot ! That’s what we usually tend to do first .. look for that mysterious answer when it was right in front of us the whole time.
  • Now, your friends will be in awe of how you pulled off the following mind trick:
  • So here’s the way it goes: Look up the 9th word on page 108 in your dictionary and write it on a slip of paper and fold it into an envelope. Next you’ll want to ask two people if they want to have their minds read. Give one person a dictionary and the other a calculator. Ask the volunteer with the calculator to pick any three digits without any of them repeating e.g. 569. Tell them to reverse the number (965). Next, tell them to subtract the larger number from the smaller one (965-569=396) and reverse the answer (693). Now, tell your volunteer to add the last sums 396+693=1089. This will always be the answer whatever the number initially picked. Are you ready for what’s next? So, ask the volunteer the first three digits of the answer. This is 108. At this point, ask the volunteer with the dictionary a to check the 9th word on page 108. Here’s where you can play with their minds so you’ll want to pretend to read their minds – drag this out as long as you want to. Pull out the envelope where you had earlier placed your slip of paper and get out the word. So have fun with this mind trick, maybe even incorporate it for the Holidays somehow – get creative !

Maintaining Good Brain Health – The Essentials

So overall, here is a list of beneficial steps to take to keep our brains as healthy as can be.

  • Indulge in a healthier diet
  • Try to get a good nights’ rest – 7-9 hours is recommended
  • Try to lessen the stress in your life
  • Be Socialable
  • Mentally challenge your brain daily
  • Give every effort to be physically as active as possible
  • And last but certainly not least – Look after your heart – surprisingly there’s a big connection between your heart and brain health

So while you’re exercising other areas of your life, don’t forget about one of the most important parts of your body – Your Brain will be glad you did 🙂

16 thoughts on “To Exercise or Not to Exercise -What does YOUR Brain Do?”

  1. I have long since believed that much of the global population would suffer far fewer ailments and illnesses as they progress through their 60’s, 70’s and beyond if only the mind was constantly challenged.

    An idle brain tends to overthink scenarios that are not empowering, dwelling on some of the more negative aspects of life. Often illness is quite literally brought in to existence by the simple act of focusing on that which we fear most.

    I could literally not make it through a week without having some sort of project, plan or scheme simmering away in my mind to keep it occupied and sharp.

    I enjoyed this article immensely and found the teasers toward s the end fun and cannot wait to try them out 🙂

  2. This was a fun read. I do have a couple of questions. You write that we should exercise our brains. Does games on the phone counts. I play word games and candy crush. I always thought of this as a kind of brain exercise. Do you think it is?
    I also heard we don’t really remember anything until we’re about 3 years old. You’re saying that we start forming memories long before that? Can we really remember the time in the womb? And do we only need help to remember things when we’re 1-3 years? Are the “clues” the problem?

    1. When I say that we can remember things from the womb, for example babies can be conditioned to sounds. We bond with the mother because we hear her voice …  I think that any puzzle or game even if it is on our phone makes our brain think more and is exercising it .

  3. Hi Marcus, thank you this insightful post, I know that our brains are a powerful tool but I didn’t realise how powerful until I read this. I personally practise mindfulness, I centre myself and listen to my body by doing this I’m able to achieve total peace but at the same time I can hear just how noisy my thoughts are. I read The Chimp Paradox by professor Steven Peters a while ago and he talks a lot in the book about our ‘chimps’ aka, the emotional part of our brains and how it’s responsible for all of the erratic behaviour, he explains that we can never silence it because it’s the part of the brain that helps us to find a mate a procreate. 

    All we can do is manage it, or let it come out have its irrational rant and then put it away again. So on that basis, I completely agree that we can train our brains. Do you think its a real thing that we can train our brains to better deal with pain?

    Thanks again for the post 🙂

    Pete

  4. Congratulations! Your article was so well-written that my brain enjoyed reading it the whole way through. As for the trick questions you suggested, I would’ve gotten the first one but not the second. The third is just beyond my comprehension. I have a very short attention span, so the usual article about brain function takes me hours if not days to finish because of all the complex scientific jargon. Yours was both educational and fun to read! Keep up the good work. 🙂

  5. This is a great read! I find it amazing that 95% of all the decisions we make are from the brains subconscious! That’s a truly incredible number but i believe it for sure. In the book “rich dad poor dad” they talk about the brains subconscious and how after the age of 7 our subconscious is basically already wired. Anything after the age of 7 has to be learned with repetition in order to rewire the brain. This includes learning new skills, breaking bad habits, and so on.

    1. Hi Nick ,

      I also find it amazing that we start bonding with our mother in the womb and making memories. That’s just almost incomprehensible  to me  ….

  6. Both physical and mental exercise have always been important to me which is why I am thrilled to stumble across your blog.  Lately I cut out sugar and have been eating lots of fish and have noticed less brain fog. Moreover I have been taking an hour a day playing trivia and doing puzzles with my niece which seems to help me think more clearly. 

    1. I agree Pam that the sugar in our diet probably doesn’t help our brain any – seems that the foods with the healthy fats in them would make more sense.

  7. Hey, thanks for such a great article. I din not know a lot of this information about the brain, especially that the brain is more active while we sleep. I wonder if this is because the subconscious mind takes over, Do you believe it’s true that we only use about 5% of our brains? I heard that somewhere once. Anyway, can’t wait to play that mind trick on my dad! 

    Thanks again

    Michelle

    1. Yes Michelle, I believe that we definitely don’t use as much of our brain as we could be – there’s always something we can learn 

  8. Thank you for this article. It was reassuring to say the least. I do most of the techniques on a normal basis. But I tend to fall off and become complacent. Also I enjoyed the brain teasers as well. It gives me something to use as a icebreaker or to get the party started.

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