May 2, 2012
It’s common knowledge that the brain controls the body, but can the body have an effect on the brain? Absolutely! Studies show that adopting a lifestyle of healthy behaviours, such as a proper diet and regular exercise, can actually “wake up” dormant stem cells in the brain’s short-term memory centre, producing new neurons and helping to counteract aging effects. So if your goal is to live younger longer – the Canyon Ranch mantra – then you’ll want your mind to stay as fit as your body. Here are three easy steps to fostering cognitive health:
Feed your brain – We’ve all heard that you are what you eat, and that goes for our minds as well as our bodies. Of course good nutrition is always a positive, but by making small changes to your diet you can enhance your cognitive health as well. According to Patty Murphy, MS, CNS, LDN, a nutritionist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox:
Incorporate “super foods” high in omega-3’s into your daily routine, like salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, and dark leafy green vegetables.
Stick to a diet rich in colourful antioxidant fruits and vegetables – kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, blueberries, prunes and pomegranates, and blackberries are great options.
Keep blood sugar levels in check and consistent throughout the day by focusing your carbohydrate intake on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Reducing sugars and refined carbohydrates can also be a powerful tool to support overall brain health.
Cognitive fitness – Like a muscle, our brain has plasticity; the ability to grow, repair and develop new connections well into adult life. One of the best ways to enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity is moderate aerobic exercise. Therefore, the prescription for brain health includes 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise four or five days a week. Some ideas:
Alternate between intervals of intense exercise some days, and workouts of moderate, steady intensity other days.
Stay mentally connected to your workout by changing it up. This will keep you from getting bored and gives you the chance to educate yourself by constantly seeking out new challenges.
Brain exercises can help promote plasticity too – focus on activities that increase processing speed, such as learning the fast steps to a salsa dance.
Brain Rest – Feeding our brains well and exercising are great, but brains also need rest and relaxation. Sleep is when repair work is scheduled for our brains. There are lots of ways to get better sleep, but trying to stay on a schedule and minimising sleep disruption are two of the best. And don’t forget the relaxation part! Participate in activities such as meditation, reading or spending time with friends to allow your mind the opportunity to recharge.
In closing, a tip from Canyon Ranch Founder, Mel Zuckerman (aged 83): “An active mind and a forgiving, easily amused temperament are the norm among people who age exceptionally well. So explore, learn and keep laughing.”
For some great recipes and blog articles about staying healthy, take a look at the Canyon Ranch website: http://www.canyonranch.com/