Health experts are quick to remind us that, from the tips of the toes to the top of the head, everything inside the body is connected. However, while focusing on losing fat and building muscle does benefit the brain, it’s important to specifically exercise our most important neurological organ, too. Here are four tips from neurosurgeon and fitness expert Brett Osborn, DO, that everyone can use to maintain brain health.
Learn new skills. Just as with other health concerns, brain health should be rooted in the prevention of disease. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, the causes of which, and the cure, are unknown. However, it’s widely thought that brain stimulation and activity can delay the onset of the disease. The acquisition of a new skill—whether it’s learning to play an instrument or taking up waterskiing—exercises the brain “muscle.”
Commit to actual exercise. Everyone knows that exercise helps protect the heart, but not everyone knows that physical activity is also good for the brain. The brain is not a muscle, but it can be worked just as muscles are worked during exercise, which forges new neuron pathways. There is a component of learning in exercise. For example, you cannot master the squat overnight; the brain has to change. Neuronal connections, or synapses, must be formed. That takes time.
Don’t sweat stress. There is such a thing as good stress, including the acute bodily stress involved in strength-training. Of course, there’s also the bad stress, such as psychological stress associated with work or interpersonal relationships, and environmental stress, derived from pesticide-laden food and other toxins. As always, you have a choice. You don’t have to accept mental stress in your life. Reconsider toxic relationships. Rethink how you handle pressure at work. Perhaps adopt a lunchtime exercise routine.
Fuel a better body and brain. I don’t believe in “diets.” Fit individuals were around for eons before the term existed, and I associate the term with temporary and, often, self-destructive behaviors. Again, it’s all connected. A healthy balance of food and activity will inevitably be good for the entire body: the heart, skeleton, muscles, brain, etc. Proper nutrition is a natural mood enhancer, and good health will inevitably improve self-esteem.