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A Workout for Your Mind: How Does That Work?

Brain training is becoming increasingly popular among health clinics and fitness establishments. The burgeoning concept is a consequence of the fear of losing cognitive function.

Currently, the research supporting brain training programs is thin but not absent. Mindfulness and other practices appear supported by several studies. Also, many neurologists support legitimate programs, quoting preliminary patient outcomes.

Brain training programs combine lifestyle changes with various meditative and mindfulness practices. Through nutrition, therapy, mindfulness, exercise, and other cognitive tasks, health centers help people improve cognitive function and discipline hypothetically.

It is necessary to highlight the hypothetical nature of most programs because the data is not yet overwhelming. Still, the makeup of some of the most prominent programs is beneficial as it is about self-care.


Understanding the Elements of a Brain Training Program


While a common misconception, brain training is not wholly focused on mental exercises. A standard program will include:

  • Cognitive training

  • Meditation

  • Physical exercise

  • Nutrition

  • Sleep

Cognitive training is about working out critical thinking skills. Most facilities incorporate video and computer games to improve attention and sharpen focus and response times. While computer training is a fun and necessary skill in the modern area, it is hard to quantify computer-related progress into real-world skills. Therefore, cognitive training with computers is considered supplementary and anecdotal.


Meditation and mindfulness have many proven benefits. Regarding brain training, meditation and mindfulness exercises, such as tai chi, increase cognitive reserve — the brain’s capacity to allocate resources, switch between tasks, and handle stress. Studies suggest that cognitive reserve helps the brain cope with neurological problems and improves the tolerance of day-to-day stressors.


While people discuss exercise in terms of muscle mass, few address the benefits to the brain. Exercise promotes the growth and production of brain cells and activates the areas of the brain dealing with executive functions, like memory. However, according to experts, people need to push themselves and monitor their heart rate to realize the benefits of exercise on the brain. The specific heart rate required for brain-boosting benefits is unique to every individual.


The brain also requires specific nutrients, which it should receive through a balanced diet. According to dieticians, the most beneficial diet for the brain is the Mediterranean diet because it includes a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, and oils. Finding an ideal number of calories to maintain a healthy weight is also beneficial.


Finally, brain fitness programs attempt to restore quality sleep. Poor sleep impairs cognition and focus. By identifying causes of sleep loss and correcting them, programs can help participants experience better sleep, potentially improving brain function.


The Necessity of Brain Training


Many commercial brain-boosting products will have you believe one pill will increase focus and improve memory. The manufacturers of these products will try to convince you of the necessity of their pills. Brain training programs, especially ones not sponsored by health clinics, can seem as insistent on the effectiveness of their programs, alluding to necessity.


Brain training programs are not essential to living a happy and healthy life. The research does not yet support the idea that programs make significant strides in cognitive improvements. Still, many experts agree that such programs can be beneficial, and anecdotal evidence tends to agree.

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