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The Muscle Everyone Forgets to Exercise

Any discussion of health gravitates toward physical health. This is understandable. Our physical health smacks in this face every time we look in the mirror, which is why it can be hard to move our thoughts on health beyond weight loss and into the other areas of Optimal Health: mental and financial.

When we talk about longevity, we have to address the trilogy of Optimal Health. Otherwise, we might have the physical health we need, but we might lack the mental acuity (or the financial stability) to really enjoy time with loved ones.

If you aren’t dedicating time to exercising your brain, you should start.

The good news is that exercise alone can help keep your brain young. According to a recent study, regular exercise can give you a ten-year edge over someone your age that gets little no to physical activity. But that’s enough. You need to devote time to challenging your brain, forging new neural pathways to keep your brain active and sharp. Like a muscle, your brain will atrophy (in a sense) if you don’t give it a regular workout.

If you approach mental health with the right strategy, you can elevate your quality of life with new, fun, and enriching activities. Here are some ideas:

  • Pick up a new language. With programs like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone growing in popular, it’s never been easier to learn a second language.
  • Listen to engaging podcasts on topics that interest you. The comedy podcasts are great, sure, but you can learn a lot from interviews with experts in their fields. Go explore!
  • Read more. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, cracking a book every day can give you far more mental stimulation than watching television.
  • Enjoy a puzzle. Crosswords, word searches, and Sudoku puzzles force you to problem solve and think critically. With varying degrees of difficulty, you can start at a difficulty level that fits you and slowly ramp up the challenge as you get better.
  • Use your offhand. It might sound goofy, but use your non-dominate hand for simple household activities like brushing your teeth or vacuuming. Make a game out of it to flex those neural pathways.
  • Play a game. Board games—especially the newer variety that are a bit more complex than shaking dice in a cup—can be a great family activity that also challenge your brain.

You are never too old to learn something new. In fact, picking up a new skill is one of life’s great joys that everyone should treasure. Get out there and try something new. You’ll have more fun and your health will benefit as well.

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