Published: August 16, 2019
You exercise to keep your body healthy, but your mind needs training too. To boost both physical and mental health, try dancing, tai chi or yoga.
Build your brain
Studies have shown that people who consistently exercise their mind through brain-building games demonstrate improvement in brain processing speed, memory and executive functions, as well as a decreased chance of developing cognitive decline or dementia.
The best kinds of mental exercises mix different cognitive functions. Look for games that demand both speed and accuracy, which have been shown to aid in building new neuropathways in your brain. For options, check out apps such as CogniFit, BrainHQ and Lumosity.
For more classic brain training, try sudoku or a crossword puzzle (up the ante by doing them in pen or timing yourself). Don’t just stick to one type of game; variety is the spice of life and good for brain health as well.
Exercising the whole person
Many types of exercise provide mind-body benefits. Consider the following advantages of activities involving movement and concentration.
Dancing can improve heart health, balance, gait and mood, while stimulating the brain. Recent studies found that choreographed dancing appeared to benefit the brain more than other forms of exercise, possibly because it involves sensory and motor function, cognitive skills and social interaction. Dancing may also help improve quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Doing tai chi may be considered low-impact exercise, but it packs a high number of health benefits, including increased strength, balance and flexibility, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. This ancient martial art requires continuous motion, as you transition slowly from one posture to the next.
Like tai chi, yoga is an ancient practice involving gentle motion, controlled breathing and deep focus and offers many of the same physical and mental health payoffs. In addition, studies have found that yoga practitioners have greater body awareness, positive body image and tend to be more mindful eaters.
Sources: Best Health Magazine, Medical News Today, Neuropsychology Review, PLOS One Berkeley Wellness, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Harvard Health, Mayo Clinic