Training the Brain

Training the Brain

training the brain

Mental stimulation and social interaction are key to cognitive wellness.

Many people are concerned about developing dementia as they age and want to know what they can do to prevent it. While there are not yet any specific medical treatments available, there are many lifestyle factors known to significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia. Three such factors are a healthy diet, physical exercise, and mentally stimulating activity.

Many chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers show lower frequency among people who eat a diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and lean meats and seafood. Dementia is also less common among people who eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Physical exercise is associated with improving health in a very broad way, benefiting everything from diabetes and heart disease to simply making one feel more energized. Numerous studies also demonstrate a strong link between physical exercise and cognitive health. One study found regular exercise correlated with a 30 percent reduced risk of developing dementia. Another study found benefits from as little as 90 minutes of leisurely walking per week. So you  don’t have to be a marathon runner to enjoy the mental benefits of exercise.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, thereby providing more energy and nutrients to the brain’s cells. Exercise also releases many chemicals that promote growth of new nerve cells and new connections between nerve cells.

Finally, mental exercise is something that more people are becoming acquainted with through the recent popularity of “brain games.” Many studies show how important mental stimulation is to preventing dementia.

Mental stimulation comes in many forms. Activities such as reading, playing music, or doing crossword puzzles can be very beneficial, as can more social activities such as playing cards, volunteering, or simply interacting with friends. Nearly any activity that requires active mental engagement is thought to be beneficial. While consumer brain training video games have not been studied enough to show any correlation, it would seem logical that they have similar effects
to activities such as crossword puzzles.

Not all mental exercise is created equal, however. Any mental activity will show diminishing returns after years of repetition. A person who has done the Sunday New York Times crossword every week for 30 years, for example, will get much less mental exercise from it than somebody who has never done a crossword puzzle before. This leads many experts to recommend a variety of mental activities to maintain their benefit. A music lover who is proficient at playing the piano could learn another instrument; or an avid bridge player could take up crossword puzzles. There is no reason to stop doing activities you enjoy, but there is much to be gained from trying new activities— and there are nearly limitless options available.

Spectrum has designed its retirement communities and innovative activities programs to promote all three areas of wellness. Chefs prepare a variety of nutritious and delicious meals each day. Wellness centers feature an assortment of exercise equipment, fitness programs, and classes that meet the fitness goals of any resident. And Spectrum offers group activities designed to stimulate the mind, such as the Brain Fitness program, which includes a twice weekly helping of brain teasers, word games, fun facts, and friends.

The new and unique Conductorcise and Arabesque fitness programs effectively combine classical music education and ballet history with aerobic exercise into a win-win situation for the brain and body. Stimulating lecture series and other innovative events keep residents active on many levels throughout each and every day. This type of continuous social interaction is one of the best things people can do to reduce the risk of dementia…not to mention it’s a whole lot of fun!

For more information about Spectrum’s dynamic wellness programs, visit us online at

By Taylor Moss

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