I sometimes get asked 'where's the proof that any of this brain fitness stuff really works?'
There is a vast array of published literature in the scientific journals supporting the idea that following a healthy diet, doing daily exercise, managing stress and stretching our mental muscle is good for maintaining a healthy brain and better brain function.
But how does this show up in our daily lives, where perpetual busyness, shifting deadlines and a multitude of distractions appear to hinder our effectiveness? Is eating a few more portions of oily fish and getting to the gym a couple of times after work each week, really going to make that much difference to you?
In a word. Yes.
In a the first study of it's kind, Finnish researchers have revealed the outcome of a 2 year study (aptly called the FINGER study), of over 1260 people aged 67-77 to look at the effect of a multi-domain intervention on mental function.
What this involved was rather than receiving scattered and generalised advice about food and exercise, such as eating more fish and walnuts and going for a walk, those in the intervention group (who had been identified as being at risk of dementia) were involved in fortnightly meetings that addressed their diet, exercise programs (both cardiovascular and muscle training) brain training exercises and management of other metabolic and vascular risk factors.
The results were significant.
Overall those in the intervention group scored 25% higher in mental function than those in the control group.
More significantly the scores for executive functioning - planning, organising, making decisions etc. were 83% higher and their speed of processing 150% higher.
The group will now be followed up for a further 7 years.
So what does this mean for those of us who are younger, active, and working hard?
While this type of intensive program has shown it is possible to potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older people, the implication appears to be that if we look after our brains across the trajectory of our lives, we are much better placed to maintain good cognitive function regardless of age.
Studies elsewhere have shown that too much fast food stuffs up our brains, reducing verbal memory in men aged 25-40 and too much sitting (by reducing cerebral blood flow) reduces prefrontal (executive) cortical function.
With societal levels of anxiety and depression rising faster than the world's sea levels, it seems looking after your brain's health can never start too early.
Healthy brains operate at a higher level; it's easier to stay focused on what matters, adapt more readily to change, co-operate for greater collaboration and enjoy a greater sense of achievement, fulfillment and happiness.
In a world that is demanding increasing levels of mental agility, flexibility and innovative thinking, knowing how to achieve that is critical to retain that cognitive advantage.
That’s why brain fitness matters and learning how to boost mental performance and optimise your brain's health has never been easier. It just takes a decision and a plan to get started.
- Do you know the best brain healthy foods to be eating?
- Is there any help available for those totally allergic to exercise?
- Could taking time out and sleeping more be the answer to overstressed, unfocused and exhausted brains?
To find out more about how brain fitness elevates effectiveness, productivity and wellbeing - why not set up a time to chat more?
What have you found helpful in your workplace?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.