What are Brain Exercises?
—A discussion of which exercises are the best for your brain.
If you typed “brain exercises” into your search engine, you might be looking for things that can miraculously help you be better at finding your keys, or have more attention on the road, or have faster answers to hard questions. This is a common and growing trend. Companies like Lumosity™ and BrainHQ™ offer an array of “brain training” games to increase processing skills targeted at specific parts of the brain. While they offer the science of why their games work, studies have found little-to-no evidence that the skills built in the game-player will transfer to other areas in life . That is, you can get better-and-better at playing their brain games, but the chances of them actually making you less fidgety, or less distractible, or more attentive to where you put your keys, are slim.
However, if you read the article hyperlinked as , you’d find that the whole brain training industry is replete with controversy. Consider this website devoted to explaining the controversy that arose when a group of scientists released a letter calling into question the benefits of brain training, which was rebutted with another letter by a different group of scientists verifying the benefits of brain training.
This is easily explained by the fact that the term “brain training” is often a misnomer and used differently by different groups. However, it is important to know that an individual can actually train, or exercise, the brain. It is just not as simple as playing games on a phone.
In this article, we’ll talk about what brain training means at Pathfinders, and we’ll give you some fun (and free!) brain exercises that you can do on a daily basis to enhance your brain functions.
What is “brain training” at Pathfinders?
For the majority of time, people thought the brain was static, that it couldn’t change past a certain point in childhood. But, in the last half of the 20th century, the term “neuroplasticity” became increasingly popular as researchers in the field discovered that the brain can change, and well into adulthood.
“Neuroplasticity, which is the capacity of brain cells to change in response to intrinsic and extrinsic factors, can have negative or positive influence at any age across the entire lifespan” .
At Pathfinders, we utilize the most effective extrinsic and intrinsic factors to increase our brain’s functions for the positive. The methods we use sometimes include computer-like games, but they usually consist of hard (or sometimes easy), repetitive work that takes practice and motivation. Some of them you can even do at home! Read on to learn a few that we do with our clients…
Brain exercises to do at home:
- Infinity Walk (we also call it a Power Walk): Walking in the shape of an 8 has multiple benefits for the brain. The most prominent is that it gets both hemispheres to work together in harmony. Why? Throughout the walk you constantly change which foot is leading, thus changing which side of your brain is dominating. Walking in general (not just in a lazy 8), is a whole brain (integrative) exercise because your arms are swinging with the opposite leg. But the infinity walk, when done as intended, has far more benefits than simply walking. To do it: place two markers (cones, water bottles, or whatever you have on hand) about 6 feet apart. Then, walk around the two markers, crossing in the middle of them to make the “8” shape. This website explains the steps to adding more techniques to the Power Walk to make it all that it can be.
- Cross Crawls: These function off the same science of the Power Walk—integrating both sides of the brain to improve electrical impulses and cerebral function. To do a cross crawl, simply touch one knee with the opposite hand (or elbow), and then switch. Do this a few times for optimum brain exercise. To see a video and short explanation of the cross crawl, click here.
- Meditation: Meditation increases the white matter in the brain. White matter is the area of the brain where myelination (the strengthening of your brain’s electrical circuits) takes place. This can lead to better focus and control of emotions and thoughts, as well as faster processing speed. Here is a list of different types of meditations and how to perform them. If you don’t have the motivation to meditate just yet, deep breathing alone has multiple benefits for the body and brain.
- Logic and Reasoning Games: These are word-problem games that will enhance your ability to see patterns and rules in a given situation and react accordingly. Math is one of the best examples of an exercise in logic, as it operates by laws and rules that we must understand and follow. But, not everyone likes math! These mindbender games are an excellent way to sharpen your logic and reasoning skills.
For even more brain exercises that involve using your body and the space around you, check out the book Brain Gym, one of the most-used resources at Pathfinders. What are some brain exercises that you’ve benefitted from? Please comment below.