How do I start a brain fitness program?

Computer ClassroomHere is ques­tion six of 25 from Brain Fit­ness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Ques­tions. To down­load the com­plete ver­sion, please click here.

How do I start a brain fit­ness program?

Key Points:

  • Any activ­i­ty that requires you to use your brain in new, chal­leng­ing ways helps your brain.
  • Recre­ation­al activ­i­ties like bridge, chess, puz­zles, sudoku, var­i­ous class­es, read­ing, and sports are all bet­ter than pas­sive­ly watch­ing television.
  • Add a com­put­er­ized brain fit­ness pro­gram to get a com­plete men­tal work­out on a reg­u­lar basis.

Do some­thing. Any­thing. Essen­tial­ly, doing any­thing is bet­ter than noth­ing. So, if you enjoy play­ing strat­e­gy games like bridge and chess, then great – keep doing it. You’re work­ing your spa­tial, mem­o­ry, and plan­ning skills, among oth­ers. Much like phys­i­cal fit­ness, if you do some­thing you enjoy, you’re more like­ly to stick with it over time. Find activ­i­ties that use your brain and fit into your life.

The draw­back to rely­ing on social and recre­ation­al activ­i­ties for your brain exer­cise is that they tend to be incom­plete. For a more struc­tured and com­pre­hen­sive men­tal work­out, try a com­put­er-based pro­gram. These pro­grams have the abil­i­ty to assess your abil­i­ties at the start and cre­ate a reg­i­men that will improve both your strengths and weak­ness­es. The pro­grams also adapt to your per­for­mance to keep on chal­leng­ing you over time.

Phys­i­cal exer­cise and good nutri­tion will sup­port your com­mit­ment to brain health. Pas­sive activ­i­ties like tele­vi­sion watch­ing will do very lit­tle to improve and stim­u­late your brain. And chron­ic stress will actu­al­ly dam­age your brain.

Use “down” time to take a much-need­ed break. If you find your­self with ten min­utes in the show­er, in your car, on a walk, or even at your desk, try paus­ing to focus on your breath­ing and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly relax­ing all your mus­cles. Con­tin­ued ele­vat­ed stress lev­els can actu­al­ly kill your brain cells, as well as cause oth­er phys­i­cal ail­ments. There­fore, just a few min­utes of relax­ation on a reg­u­lar basis will go a long way to improv­ing both your brain and over­all fitness.

You must use your brain in order to improve it. Dai­ly life can pro­vide plen­ty of plea­sur­able chal­lenges to work your mind, but be sure to seek out a diverse pro­gram that includes nov­el­ty, vari­ety, and stretch­ing practice.

Fur­ther Reading


  1. Head Coach on January 4, 2007 at 3:00

    When try­ing to change my behav­ior I find it help­ful to think about the changes need­ed in oth­er areas of my life that will increase the prob­a­bil­i­ty of long-term success.

    I have found that my dai­ly behav­ior is a func­tion of the neur­al paths that I have devel­oped over time through inter­ac­tion with my envi­ron­ment. In essence, I cre­ate an “ecosystem” that sup­ports my auto­mat­ic behav­iors that I have estab­lished over the years. As I start to mod­i­fy my neur­al paths through train­ing, both my envi­ron­ment and my auto­mat­ic behav­iors can inter­fere with my fit­ness pro­gram. How­ev­er, even a slight decrease in the forces restrain­ing my train­ing pro­gram increas­es the prob­a­bil­i­ty that my fit­ness pro­gram will be main­tained over time.

  2. Alvaro on January 5, 2007 at 9:01

    Neal: very wise words. Thanks!

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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