Boost Your Brain Power
Why Fitness is Just as Important for Your Brain as it is for Your Body
We’ve all been there- feeling tired and worn out after a long day at work, or feeling sluggish after indulging in an extra large burger and fries combo from the local fast food joint. When you can’t find the time to eat healthy and exercise, you can feel it in your entire body. So what do you do to refresh your body and keep it in optimal condition? I’m sure we’ve all heard it umpteen times: eat a balanced diet and exercise, exercise, exercise! But did you know that the same philosophy applies to keeping your brain healthy as well? Like the rest of your body, your brain can get tired and sluggish if you don’t work to keep it in shape, and this causes it to function at a sub-optimal level. If you’re looking to boost your brain power for an upcoming exam, unfortunately there is no magic pill you can take to make you instantly smarter. However, by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly you can help maintain your brain’s health and thus optimize your brain power
There is much evidence that nutrition during all stages of life is equally important. Throughout one’s life, nutrition affects various aspects of cognition, such as memory, IQ, attention, and learning ability. Thus, nutrition is directly linked to how well the brain functions. More specifically, a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle can “optimize brain function, prevent dysfunction, and even treat disease.” According to M. J. Dauncey, there are several key factors that exert the most influence on cognitive functioning, including energy balance, fatty acids, and trace elements such as copper, zinc, and iron. In order to incorporate these key elements into your diet, try to include a balance of carbohydrates (such as whole wheat), proteins (such as dairy products and lean red meat), and food that contains fatty acids (such as fish).
On the other hand, try to stay away from processed foods and foods high in trans and saturated fat. Too much fat or sugar in your diet can make you feel tired and sluggish because it ultimately drains your brain power. However, don’t feel like you can’t indulge every now and then in some of your favorite treats; moderation is also part of a balanced diet. Even sweet treats like chocolate can be good for you in small quantities. Cocoa contains compounds called flavanol that actually increase blood flow to the brain and can make you feel more alert.
In addition to a healthy diet, physical activity also helps to maintain and improve brain function. The benefits of physical activity (namely aerobic exercise like jogging, which gets your heart rate up) are numerous. For starters, exercise increases blood flow to the brain which in turn increases energy and boosts concentration and awareness. In addition, certain hormones that are released during exercise can actually help repair damaged neurons. Moreover, exercise decreases stress, increases mood, and fosters a more positive outlook on life in general. All of these factors contribute to help the brain perform at its optimal level, which of course varies by individual.
So even though you can’t take a pill to miraculously increase your IQ, you can ensure that your brain is functioning at the highest level possible simply by eating a healthy, balanced diet, and exercising a few times a week. Who thought boosting your brain power could be so simple?