BRAIN TRAINING - Is the brain a muscle?
No matter what you're doing, your brain is almost always getting a workout! School work, housework, career work, driving in traffic, watching TV, running errands, deciding what to eat for dinner, keeping up with a conversation, remembering where you parked your car, the list goes on and on. You rely on your brain for, well, everything! Crazy once you think about it, huh!
I bet you’ve heard the phrase - use it or lose it. Many researchers believe that this motto applies to your brain health. Brain training is the new trend, often praised as a way to sharpen your mind and even boost intelligence. But is your brain really a muscle?
As it turns out, your brain isn't actually a muscle. It's an organ — one that plays a huge role in controlling muscles throughout your body. Muscle is made up of muscle tissue, which is muscle cells grouped into elastic bundles that contract together to produce motion and/or force.
Your brain, on the other hand, is a three-pound organ made up of soft tissue called grey matter and white matter, which contain neurons and other cells (called glial cells) that help maintain these neurons. Neurons are special cells that send and receive information throughout your body in the form of electrical and chemical signals.
If our brains aren’t a muscle - why does your brain benefit from getting a workout?
By the time you're about six years old, your brain is done growing. But it continues to change as you age. During adolescence and early adulthood, subtle changes help you develop and refine the cognitive skills needed to learn new concepts and think strategically. As the years pass, you continue to use your cognitive skills to learn new things, solve problems and adjust to challenges and changing priorities. While some studies suggest that common cognitive functions may begin to slowly decline over time starting as early as age 30.
All hope is not lost! Your brain might not be a muscle, but — just as you can target specific muscle groups during a workout — studies have shown that stimulating your brain can help improve how well it functions. In fact, a 2013 study found that young adults who played a brain-training game showed improved in the following areas:
Executive function – selective attention, abstract reasoning, and versatility while problem-solving
Working memory – storing, accessing, and processing new information
Processing speed – attention, focus and ability to recall information
And there's more good news! Studies show that exercising the body regularly, particularly doing cardio, benefits cognitive function and helps reduce a person's risk of dementia. Healthy body = healthy mind!
In addition, listening to music or learning to play an instrument have been shown to improve memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities in older adults.
So — while it's true that your brain isn't a muscle and that cognitive function does slowly decline over time, there are steps you can take to help maintain a strong, healthy brain as you age.
Here are 7 Brain Exercises to Strengthen Your Mind! What are your favorite ways to train your brain?