Sunday, March 31, 2013

Article # 438. Protein - Why Is It Important

Protein - Why Is It Important

Protein is one of the most important substances we consume. After this article you will know how much protein your body needs. The function it plays in survival, the way it is processed and used.
Other than water, protein is the most abundant nutrient in the body. Protein is a chain of linked units called amino acids. The protein you eat is split apart into these amino acids, absorbed in the small intestines, then rearranged and put back in the blood stream. These new arranged proteins carry out specific functions to maintain life. All living tissues are made up of twenty-two essential and nonessential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not made by the body and must be supplied through diet. There are nine essential amino acids: Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine. The remaining thirteen are nonessential amino acids produced in the body and not essential to consume through the diet.
Twenty two in all. Amino acids are divided into 2 groups:

Aspartic Acid
Glutamic Acid



Protein provides four calories per gram. The human body can do three things with protein calories; put protein in fat stores, use it as an energy source or use it to carry out functions vital to life. Protein calories will be used as an energy source when the body is lacking fat or carbohydrate calories for fuel. When the body receives sufficient quantities of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, protein will carry out its specific functions. These proteins functions include: replacement of old cells, building muscles, organs, blood, nails, hair, skin, and tissues. Protein also takes part in hormone, antibodies, and enzyme formation.
Fasting your body without proper protein intake will cause your body to slowly start shutting down. You must not only eat enough protein, but you must eat the right types. Without the right amount of essential proteins, no matter how much you eat, your body will waste the protein and not run properly.
A diet that is low in essential amino acids does not carry out all of its protein functions. Protein follows the all-or-none law: inadequate amounts of essential amino acids cause the body to excrete proteins in urine as urea. The remainder of the protein is converted to glucose, fat, or metabolized for energy. This lack of essential amino acids prevents proteins from performing their normal functions. Foods that have all nine of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. Complete proteins include all food from animal products, milk, cheese, chicken, beef, and ext. Don't worry folks! Proteins that are incomplete (plant products) can be combined with complementary proteins that carry the missing amino acids to form a complete protein. Examples of incomplete protein are grains, cereals, and vegetables. To complement these proteins you would combine beans with grains, or nuts with cereal.
Now that you have an understanding of the right kinds of protein to eat, we will discuss how many grams you need to eat.
In Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, the Authors say, "The Committee on Dietary Allowances of the Food Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences states the RDA in grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day" (Whitney 153). If calories are sufficient in carbohydrates and fat, You divide your body weight by 2.2, this gives your weight in kilograms. You multiply your kilogram weight by 0.8, this gives you your daily intake of protein. A person who weighs 95 kilograms (210 pounds), would take 95 kilograms times 0.8. Their daily protein intake would work out to be around 77 grams, 12% of your calories would come from protein.
We do know that long bouts of exercising increases the need for nutrients, especially protein. In Nutrition For Fitness and Sport with Powerweb the author says, " a number of studies involving endurance athletes found that 0.97-1.37 grams of protein per kilogram per day were needed" (Williams 112).

Article # 437. Carbohydrates - The Bodies Preferred Source Of Energy

Are carbohydrates the bodies preferred source of energy? By the time you finish reading this article you will understand the bodies need, function and the roles carbohydrates play in our nutrition. We start our discussion by comparing complex and simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates include bread, pasta and cereals. They are digested at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates. This slower digestion offers a more continual and stable flow of energy. Simple carbohydrates deliver the same amount of energy, four calories per gram, but at a far more rapid pace. Therefore, simple carbohydrates provide an immediate boost in blood sugar. But the boost comes with a price -- it wears off quickly and more is needed to sustain blood sugar levels.
As a result, excess food cravings are experienced and may cause individuals to increase their calorie consumption. Thus, simple carbohydrates should be avoided within your diet. They include sugar, honey, soda and candy.
Sugar and Carbohydrates are broken down into smaller versions called glucose. All cells in the human body depend on glucose. This makes carbohydrates the body's number one energy source. The brain and nervous system run directly off glucose. The human body will convert protein to glucose without enough carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrates spare other nutrients (protein), and allow these nutrients to carry out their intended functions.
Carbohydrates offer a thermogenic effect that will increase calorie burning. This will cause your body to burn more calories every time you eat. If your diet is high in fat, the fat is put faster into storage. To top if off, fat is much harder to take out of lipid (fat) stores and used as energy. Carbohydrates on the other hand, use 23 percent of consumed calories to store carbohydrates. In contrast, fat uses only 3 percent of consumed calories.
Carbohydrates should make up 50% to 60% of your calories. The majority of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates. Less then ten percent of your calories should come from refined sugars. This will decrease low blood sugar, increase energy expenditure, increase satiety and satisfaction. Carbohydrates are glucose, glycogen, sugar, starches, fiber, cellulose and various saccharides. In plain English, complex carbohydrates are the most desirable because they burn more slowly. Foods such as breads made from whole grains, fruit in its natural state (raw), and raw vegetables are examples of excellent carbohydrates.

Article # 436. How Do Carbohydrates Convert to Fat?

The energy nutrients are carbohydrates, fat and protein. The body breaks down carbohydrates to glucose, also called blood sugar, to burn for energy. The body prefers glucose as its main energy source. The body can also break down fat, in a process called beta-oxidation, and burn the breakdown products for energy. Proteins are generally spared to build all the structures and chemicals our body makes from protein, such as muscle tissue, enzymes, some hormones and chemicals in the immune system. When immediate energy needs are met the body will store excess calories, regardless of the source.
Simple Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are the monosaccharides and disaccharides. The main dietary disaccharides are sucrose, lactose and maltose. Each of these sugars consists of two smaller units, the monosaccharides, hooked together. Sucrose, or table sugar, is made of glucose and fructose. Lactose, or milk sugar, is made of glucose and galactose. Maltose, found in honey, cereals, legumes and other grain products, is two glucose units hooked together. Added sugars are often found in processed foods. The body breaks the disaccharides up into the single sugar units, which get absorbed into the bloodstream. Fructose and galactose can feed into the same metabolic cycle that break down glucose.
Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates consist of many glucose units hooked together. They are the starch found in grain products like bread, cereal or rice and in starchy vegetables like potatoes or sweet potatoes. Enzymes in the small intestine break up the longer chains into single glucose units, which get absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber is also considered a complex carbohydrate, but those molecules do not get broken down the same way so they do not raise blood sugar.
Storage as Glycogen
Glucose has three fates in the body: it gets burned for energy, stored as glycogen or stored as fat. Glycogen, a large structure made of glucose units, is found primarily in the liver and muscle tissue. When blood glucose gets low, the body can clip off glucose units from the glycogen in the liver to send it into the bloodstream to get burned for energy. The body is only capable of making a finite amount of glycogen, which can increase depending on a person's level of fitness.
Storage as Fat
After immediate energy needs are met and the body has stored all the glycogen it can, the excess glucose gets partially broken down into smaller units. The liver hooks these smaller breakdown products back together to form a different structure, fatty acids. The fatty acids get sent out into the bloodstream and dropped off at the fat tissue stores, also called adipose tissue. The fatty acids then form a larger molecule called triglycerides for storage. The body can store fat in quantities that sometimes seems limitless, unlike glycogen.

Article # 435. Cranberry Health Benefits

Cranberries are a great tasting berry, delicious in juices, as a dried fruit and fresh in a variety of recipes. Cranberries also have unique and amazing health benefits.
As you probably know, most health professionals believe that there is a clear association between a diet high in fruits and vegetables and a low risk of chronic disease. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, naturally derived from plant compounds. In particular, antioxidants — a group of extremely beneficial phytonutrients, are increasingly being shown to contribute to improving human health.
Cranberries are loaded with unique antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may protect against heart disease, cancer and variety of other diseases. A significant body of research has been completed that points to cranberries being a powerful addition to any diet.
Cranberries have also been shown to prevent or reduce urinary tract infections. The proanthocyanidins (PACS) in cranberries prevent the adhesion of certain bacteria, including E. coli to the urinary tract wall. Cranberries are the only fruit that contain these unique and powerful proanthocyanidins. The anti-adhesion properties of the cranberry may also inhibit the bacteria associated with gum disease and stomach ulcers.
Cranberries are a superfood that you should enjoy all year round. Cranberries have vitamin C and fiber, and are only 45 calories per cup. In disease-fighting antioxidants, cranberries outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable--including strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries, and cherries.

Health benefits of Cranberries

Delicious, tart cranberries have significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals calledpro-anthocyanidins (PAC’s). Scientific studies have shown that consumption of berries have potential health benefits against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections.

Antioxidant compounds in cranberries such as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC’s), anthocyanidin flavonoids, cyanidin, peonidin and quercetin may prevent cardiovascular disease by counteracting against cholesterol plaque formation in the heart and blood vessels. Further, these compounds help the human body lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL-good cholesterol levels in the blood.

Research studies show that cranberry juice consumption offers protection against gram-negative bacterial infections such as E.coli in the urinary system by inhibiting bacterial-attachment to the bladder and urethra.

Consumption of cranberries turns urine acidic. This, together with the bacterial anti-adhesion property of cranberry juice helps prevent the formation of alkaline (calcium ammonium phosphate) stones in the urinary tract by working against proteus bacterial-infections.

Further, the berries prevent plaque formation on the tooth surface by interfering with the ability of another gram-negative bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, to stick to the surface. It thus helps prevent the development of cavities in a way similar to the action in preventing urinary tract infections.

In addition, the berries are an also good source of many vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, ß-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and folate and minerals like potassium, and manganese.

Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC (measurement of antioxidant strength of food items) demonstrates cranberry at an ORAC score of 9584 µmol TE units per 100 g, one of the highest in the category of edible berries.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Article # 434. Seaweed Super Foods

Seaweeds are one of nature's true wonder foods! They are one of the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet and also the most abundant source of minerals in the plant kingdom as they have access to all the nutrients in the ocean.

Being a superfood, a little goes a long way!

Benefits of Seaweeds
  • Blood Purifying: The chemical composition of seaweeds is so close to human blood plasma, that they are excellent at regulating and purifying our blood. 
  • High in Calcium: They can contain up to 10 times more calcium than milk and 8 times as much as beef.  
  • Alkalizing:They help to alkalize our blood, neutralizing the over-acidic effects of our modern diet.
  • Have Powerful Chelating Properties: They offer protection from a wide array of environmental toxins, including heavy metals, pollutants and radiation by-products, by converting them to harmless salts that the body can eliminate easily.
  • Contain Anti-oxidants: Seaweeds contain lignans (naturally occurring chemical compounds) which have anti cancer properties.
  • Detoxifying: They are rich in chlorophyll (the pigment that makes some seaweeds green) which is a powerful, natural detoxifier that helps to draw out waste products.
  • Boost Weight loss: Seaweeds play a role in boosting weight loss and deterring cellulite build-up. Their naturally high concentration of iodine, helps to stimulate the thyroid gland, which is responsible for maintaining a healthy metabolism. At the same time, its' minerals act like electrolytes to break the chemical bonds that seal the fat cells, allowing trapped wastes to escape. 
Different Types of Seaweeds That You Can Enjoy Everyday
Nori - Nori is best known as the seaweed used to make sushi rolls. You can make your own at home, but make sure you use the untoasted nori sheets for maximum nutrient content.

Kelp - Kelp, also known as brown algae, is the most common seaweed found along the ocean shores. Due to its thick leaves it is perfect for a hot seaweed bath. It is also available in supplement form.

Dulse - Dulse is a red seaweed and can be bought either whole or as flakes. Dulse sold as flakes does not need to be soaked and can be added straight to any meal.  Whole dulse is better soaked, drained of water, and sliced before adding to your dish. It is great to use as seasoning on salads, vegetables and soups.

Arame - Arame is a ‘black’ stringy looking seaweed. It needs to be soaked for a few minutes before it is added to cooking, where it will double in size.  It can be added to any grain dishes, stir fries, soups, salads and curries.

Wakame - A deep green seaweed, wakame is sold fresh or dehydrated. It tastes best when hydrated in water for a few minutes before being used. Sprinkle in soups, stocks, stews, stir fries or savory dishes.

Kombu - Used in Japan for centuries as a mineral rich flavour enhancer. Add a strip of kombu when cooking beans to make them more digestible and to reduce gas. Add a strip of kombu to your sprouts when soaking them to allow them to soak up the minerals.
When sourcing or buying seaweed, choose certified organic brands where possible. Seaweeds will absorb the properties of the water in which they are grown, so you want to ensure that they have been grown and harvested in unpolluted waters that are pure, and free from harmful chemicals. 

Article # 433. Green Super foods

Green Super foods:-

Greens are good, Green Super foods are even better! Green super foods have the highest concentrations of easily digestible nutrients, fat burning compounds, vitamins and minerals to protect and heal the body. They contain a wide array of beneficial substances including proteins, protective photo-chemicals and healthy bacteria helping you to build cleaner muscles and tissues, aid your digestive system function and more effectively protect you against disease and illness.

Green super foods are extremely rich in chlorophyll - the pigment that gives plants their green color. The molecular structure of chlorophyll is very similar to that of human blood and studies show that when this is consumed, the production of hemoglobin in blood is increased. Higher amounts of hemoglobin in the bloodstream means more oxygen-rich blood, the first and most important element that cells need to thrive.

Wheat grass - Wheat grass is the sprouted grass of a wheat seed. Unlike the whole grain, because it has been sprouted, it no longer contains gluten or other common allergic agents. Wheat grass is super alkalizing and is excellent for promoting healthy blood. It normalizes the thyroid gland to stimulate metabolism thus assisting digestion and promoting weight loss due also to its high enzyme content and cleansing effect.

Barley grass - Barley grass has 11 times more calcium than cows milk, 5 times more iron than spinach and 7 times more Vitamin C and bio-flavonoids than orange juice. It contains significant amounts of Vitamin B12 which is very important in a vegetarian diet. Barley grass juice has anti-viral activities and neutralizes heavy metals such as mercury in the blood.

Wild blue-green algae - Algae was the first form of life on Earth and its power is immense. Wild blue-green algae is a phyto-plankton and contains virtually every nutrient. With a 60% protein content and a more complete amino acid profile than beef or soy beans. It contains one of the best known food sources of beta carotene, B vitamins and chlorophyll. It has been shown to improve brain function and memory, strengthen the immune system and help with viruses, colds and flu.

Spirulina - Spirulina is a cultivated micro-algae which has been consumed for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples in Mexico and Africa. It is one of the highest known protein sources on Earth and contains 70% complete protein, towering over steak which consists of only 25% protein once cooked. Studies have shown that spirulina can help control blood sugar levels and cravings thus making it a key food for diabetics, and can be used to assist in weight loss and as a general nutritional supplement.

Chlorella - Chlorella is a fresh water algae and like its other algae cousins contains a complete protein profile, all the B vitamins, vitamin C and E and many minerals. It is amazing for the immune system and for reducing cholesterol and preventing the hardening of the arteries, a precursor to heart attacks and strokes.

Green leafy vegetables - Green leafy vegetables are so readily available and so highly nutritious, however most people do not eat enough of them. Studies continuously confirm that populations that eat a diet high in green leafy vegetables run a far lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Fresh raw green leafy vegetables contain high doses of chlorophyll, easily digestible proteins, enzymes and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. These particular vegetables act as mini-transfusions for the blood, a health tonic for the brain and immune system and a cleanser of the kidneys. Try any of the following: rocket, spinach, dandelion greens, kale, watercress, parsley, lettuce, endive, chicory, broccoli sprouts and mustard sprouts.

Article # 432. Super Foods

Super foods are a special category of foods found in nature. By definition they are calorie sparse and nutrient dense meaning they pack a lot of punch for their weight as far as goodness goes.They are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients - nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves. We all may be adding more salads and vegetables to our diets, but concern over the quality of foods grown on mineral depleted soils makes Super foods an intelligent choice.

The foods are generally whole, natural foods that contain various vitamins, minerals or antioxidants. Those who tout them suggest that by incorporating a variety of these exceptionally healthy foods, one's overall physical health can improve.


The foods that carry superior nutrition, or the "top health foods," are solid sources of dietary fiber and various other vitamins and minerals. They offer phytonutrients, or plant-based nutrients considered exceptionally healthy, as well as antioxidants, which support the body's immune system and may reduce the risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Super foods are generally nutrient-dense, but not high-calorie, meaning a large portion carries relatively few calories compared with other foods and are readily available to consumers. They are free of added sugars and low or free of saturated fats. In general, super foods hold the capacity to help reduce the risk for chronic diseases and infection while improving physical health and enhancing longevity.


Examples of popular super foods include nuts such as almonds and walnuts, which provide healthy fat as well as protein and fiber. Almonds also have more calcium than other nuts, and one serving of almonds offers half the body's vitamin E requirement. Fruits that make the super foods list include berries. Blueberries prevent urinary tract infections and are rich in vitamin C and fiber. Salmon is a popular super food for its healthy omega-3 fat content. Broccoli is often listed for its dense amount of nutrients, including antioxidants that can reduce risk for multiple diseases such as diabetes and some forms of cancer. Sweet potatoes offer valuable amounts of fiber; vitamins B-6, C and E; folate and potassium. Wheat germ is a common super food, known for its concentrated amounts of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc. It also contains protein, fiber and some fat.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Article # 431. Tips for staying motivated

Tips for staying motivated

Have you ever started a fitness program and then quit? If you answered yes, you're not alone. Many people start fitness programs but stop when they get bored or results come too slowly. Here are seven tips to help you stay motivated.

1. Set goals
Start with simple goals and then progress to longer range goals. Remember to make your goals realistic and achievable. It's easy to get frustrated and give up if your goals are too ambitious.
For example, if you haven't exercised in a while, a short-term goal might be to walk 10 minutes a day three days a week. An intermediate goal might be to walk 30 minutes five days a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a 5K walk.
2. Make it fun
Find sports or activities that you enjoy, then vary the routine to keep you on your toes. If you're not enjoying your workouts, try something different. Take a ballroom dancing class. Check out a health club or martial arts center. Discover your hidden athletic talent. Remember, exercise doesn't have to be drudgery — and you're more likely to stick with a fitness program if you're having fun.

3. Make physical activity part of your daily routine
If it's hard to find time for exercise, don't fall back on excuses. Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity. You can also slip in physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk up and down side-lines while watching the kids play sports. Pedal a stationary bike or do strength training exercises while you watch TV at night.
4. Put it on paper
Are you hoping to lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Write it down. Seeing the benefits of regular exercise on paper may help you stay motivated.
You may also find it helps to keep an exercise diary. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Recording your efforts can help you work toward your goals — and remind you that you're making progress.

5. Join forces with friends, neighbors or others
You're not in this alone. Invite friends or co-workers to join you when you exercise. Work out with your partner or other loved ones. Play soccer with your kids. Organize a group of neighbours to take fitness classes at a local GYM.
6. Reward yourself
After each exercise session, take a few minutes to savor the good feelings that exercise gives you. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise. External rewards can help, too. When you reach a longer range goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes or new tunes to enjoy while you exercise.
7. Be flexible
If you're too busy to work out or simply don't feel up to it, take a day or two off. Be gentle with yourself if you need a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.
Now that you've regained your enthusiasm, get moving! Set your goals, make it fun and pat yourself on the back from time to time. Remember, physical activity is for life. Review these tips whenever you feel your motivation slipping.

Article # 430. Can I lose weight if my only exercise is walking?

Can I lose weight if my only exercise is walking?
You might be able to lose weight that way, depending on the duration and intensity of your walking and what your diet's like. But eating fewer calories through dietary changes seems to promote weight loss more effectively than does physical activity.

That's not to say physical activity, such as walking, isn't important for weight control — it is. If you add 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine, you could burn about 150 more calories a day. (To lose a pound a week, you generally need to eliminate 500 calories a day.) Of course, the more you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you'll burn.

To reap the most health benefits from exercise, your exercise intensity must generally be at a moderate or vigorous level. For weight loss, the more intense your exercise, or the longer you exercise, the more calories you burn. However, balance is important. Overdoing it can increase your risk of soreness, injury and burnout. If you're new to regular exercise and physical activity, you may need to start out at a light intensity and gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity.

Once you've lost weight, exercise is even more important — it's what helps keep the weight off. In fact, studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity. So keep walking, but make sure you also follow a healthy diet.

Article # 429. How Many Calories Should I Burn a Week to Lose Weight?

How Many Calories Should I Burn a Week to Lose Weight?

Your body burns a certain number of calories during day-to-day activity and to maintain metabolic functions, such as cell production, blood circulation, heart beat and breathing. An increase in your level of exercise enables you to burn more calories than your body burns on its own and helps you lose weight.
Increasing the number of calories you burn through exercise promotes weight loss. Another significant factor is your calorie intake. If you increase your physical activity without increasing the number of calories you consume, weight loss results. However, underestimating your calorie intake can sabotage your efforts to lose weight through exercise. Even if you intend to maintain your current eating plan, monitor your food intake to make sure you don't counteract your increased activity with increased calorie consumption.

When you eat enough calories to support your current weight, you need to create a calorie deficit through physical activity. To burn enough calories to lose weight, plan to exercise five to seven times a week. If you burn 250 calories through exercise seven days a week, for example, you create a weekly deficit of 1,750 calories. Since you need a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb., this level of activity supports weight loss of 1/2 lb. per week.
Your physical activity goals need to be realistic and contribute to healthy weight loss. A modest calorie deficit of 250 calories daily equates to a weight loss of 2 lbs. per month. To lose 1 lb. per week, you would need to burn 500 calories daily. It takes 60 minutes of aerobics or brisk walking for a 154-lb. person to burn 460 to 480 calories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may be realistic if you are fit and already moderately physically active. If not, start with 15 to 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise such as walking and work your way up to longer and more intense activities.

The number of calories you burn during exercise depends on the type of activity, your weight and how many minutes you spend exercising. A 154-lb. person burns 145 to 165 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activities such as walking at 3.5 mph, dancing, golfing without a cart or bicycling at 10 mph or less, notes the CDC. Higher intensity activities, such as aerobics swimming or jogging, burn 240 to 295 calories for the same duration.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 to 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise to support modest weight loss. In addition, ACSM recommends you incorporate two strength workouts into your regimen on non-consecutive days to increase muscle mass and burn calories. Continue a modest exercise regimen after you reach your goal weight to help you maintain your weight long term.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Article # 428. Excercises for Brain

Many men are devoted to exercise to bulk up their bodies, but the phrase “use it or lose it” applies to more than just the muscles in our bodies -- it also applies to the neural pathways and connections in our brains. There are a variety of exercises and activities that can successfully work each of the brain’s five major cognitive functions on a daily basis.
Our minds consist of five main cognitive functions:
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Language
  • Visual-spatial skills
  • Executive function
It’s important to challenge, stimulate and effectively exercise all five areas to stay mentally sharp as our brains age. Here are 5 daily brain exercises that can help you do this.

1-      Memory

Memory plays a crucial role in all cognitive activities, including reading, reasoning and mental calculation. There are several types of memory at work in the brain. Taken together, these are the cognitive skills we may notice most when they begin to fail. To maintain a good memory, you need to train for it, which can be easier than you think. Listening to music is not only enjoyable, but by choosing a song you don’t know and memorizing the lyrics, you boost the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain, and improve your memory skills. Challenge yourself even more by showering or getting dressed in the dark or using your opposite hand to brush your teeth. These challenges help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.

2- Attention
Attention is necessary in nearly all daily tasks. Good attention enables you to maintain concentration despite noise and distractions and to focus on several activities at once. We can improve our attention by simply changing our routines. Change your route to work or reorganize your desk -- both will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again. As we age, our attention span can decrease, making us more susceptible to distraction and less efficient at multitasking. By combining activities like listening to an audio book with jogging or doing math in your head while you drive forces your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time.

3- Language

Language activities will challenge our ability to recognize, remember and understand words. They also exercise our fluency, grammatical skills and vocabulary. With regular practice, you can expand your knowledge of new words and much more easily retrieve words that are familiar. For example, if you usually only thoroughly read the sports section, try reading a few in-depth business articles. You’ll be exposed to new words, which are easier to understand when read in context or easier to look up on a dictionary site if you are reading the news online. Take time to understand the word in its context, which will help you build your language skills and retrieve the word more readily in front of your boss in the future.

4- Visual-Spatial

We live in a colorful, three-dimensional world. Analyzing visual information is necessary to be able to act within your environment. To work this cognitive function, try walking into a room and picking out five items and their locations. When you exit the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Too easy? Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations. The next time you’re waiting on your coworker or friend to arrive, try this mental exercise. Look straight ahead and note everything you can see both in front of you and in your peripheral vision. Challenge yourself to recall everything and write it down. This will force you to use your memory and train your brain to focus on your surroundings.

5- Executive Function

Without even realizing it, you use your logic and reasoning skills on a daily basis to make decisions, build up hypotheses and consider the possible consequences of your actions. Activities in which you must define a strategy to reach a desired outcome and calculate the right moves to reach the solution in the shortest possible time are actually fun activities you do daily -- like social interaction and, yes, video games. Engaging in a brief visit with a friend boosts your intellectual performance by requiring you to consider possible responses and desired outcomes. Video games require strategy and problem-solving to reach a desired outcome -- like making it to the final level. “It’s not just Halo, honey; I’m exercising my executive brain functions!”