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Exercise your brain for health

One of the new club programs developed by NDSU Extension specialists for our use this year is titled "Nourish Your Brain." One segment of it goes into exercising the brain. Now, most of us know we should exercise for our bodies, but did you know our brains need it, too?

Your brain should be exercised just like the rest of your body. Activities such as brain teasers challenge your brain to think in new ways and form new connections. Results of the 2006 Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly study found that cognitive training resulted in improved cognitive abilities that continued up to five years. Participants were trained for memory, reasoning and speed of processing.

Here are some tips to help memory:

* Learn a new skill

* Volunteer

* Spend time with family and friends

* Use memory tools (to-do lists, calendars, notes to yourself)

* Put wallet, keys, purse in the same place each day

* Get plenty of rest

There are several activities that help to keep the brain sharp:

* Do crossword and jigsaw puzzles, word finds or Sudoku puzzles

* Play card games, board games and bingo

* Read the newspaper, books or magazines

* Knit, paint, draw or do other crafts

* Play a musical instrument or learn a foreign language

* Stay up to date on technology

We need to remember to stay physically active, as that helps maintain good blood flow to the brain. The Dietary Guidelines of Americans recommend that most adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days, preferably every day. Short segments of physical activity (such as three one-minute walks) count toward the goal.

Stimulate your brain by adding variety to your activities. Try a new activity, alternate activities throughout the week or take a new route when you walk or jog.

Housework counts as physical activity, too -- cleaning the house, mowing the lawn and gardening. And dancing was found to be the No. 1 physical activity to decrease the onset of dementia. So get those feet moving!

As we grow older, we tend to grow wiser with each year. While our knowledge can continue to increase, our ability to make connections and process information can slow with age. The good news: Our daily food and fitness habits can make a difference in the aging process.

For more information, or if a group is interested in a presentation on this topic, contact Eunice Sahr, Stutsman County Extension agent. She may be reached at 252-9030 or via e-mail: