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Cross Train Your Brain April 24, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Health & Wellness, Meditation.

A few weeks ago, we attended a lecture at Freedom Village on Cross Training Your Brain.

We’d heard the speaker, Dr. Kevin W. O’Neill, once before when he presented A Brain Training Symposium.


Dr. O’Neill reiterated that what benefits the body, benefits the brain:

* Exercise ~ Ball Room Dancing is #1!
* Eat right ~ a Mediterranean Diet is best
* Sleep tight ~ without popping pills
* Don’t let the bed bugs bite
* Manage stress ~ meditation is great
* Focus on positives ~ don’t worry, be happy
* Interact with friends ~ be a social animal
* Tickle your funny bone chakra
* Learn something new today ~ build synapses
* Share your talents/volunteer/help others
* Develop an attitude of gratitude
* Drinking coffee lowers the risk of dementia
* Eat tumeric ~ curried veggies, please
* Play games, solve puzzles, have FUN!
* Live, Love, Laugh, Learn!

A few key points:

(1) Exercise is the fountain of youth when it comes to brain health.  It lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, increases gray matter, improves blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, and reduces stress.  For a 76% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, try Ballroom Dancing!

(2) Reducing Stress helps maintain brain health ~ try exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or other purposeful pursuits.  And get enough sleep.  Sleep allows neurons to shut down and repair themselves.

(3) A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and omega 3 fats helps keep dementia at bay.  Vitamins C, D, and E are key building blocks for brain health.  As is Folic Acid ~ found in dark green veggies, chickpeas, and pinto beans.  Avoid sugar, salt, processed foods, unhealthy fast foods, deep fried food, and saturated fats.

(4) Intellectual Stimulation and Social Engagement are beneficial to brain health as we age.  Playing games and musical instruments helps ward off dementia.  Read books that challenge and inspire you.  Complete challenging puzzles.  Participate in mentally stimulating activities.  Play games that are strategic in nature.  Learn new skills or hobbies.  Join clubs focused on your interests.  Engage in ongoing learning.  Stay involved in the community.  Visit with friends and family.  Volunteer outside the home.

(5)  Go ahead, enjoy your daily dose of caffeine.  According to the research Dr. O’Neill shared, drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day will lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease . . . by 65%!

But don’t just sit around drinking coffee, R~E~A~D!  More on that tomorrow.

Aah . . . that’s better!


What do you do to keep your brain sharp?


1. http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com - April 24, 2014

Does blogging count as intellectual stimulation and social engagement?

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

It can ~ I know that my mind has been expanded as a result of exposure to so many different blogs and bloggers. I expect that face to face social engagement probably offers more brain perks than interacting with a computer all day.

2. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - April 24, 2014

I love this! And I like that I already do a lot of them 🙂

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

Yay! Keep it up, Kate! We went for a 4 mile walk on the beach yesterday and I slept like a baby last night! A win-win.

3. Val Boyko - April 24, 2014

This is great Nancy!
I’m hoping that teaching yoga keeps the synapses firing and the body moving until the very end 😉

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

I expect that teaching yoga is one of the BEST things you could do ~ exercise, relaxation, stretching, social interaction, etc.

I’ve seen some nimble yogis ~ both physically and mentally appearing far younger than their calendar years!

4. katecrimmins - April 24, 2014

Did you recognize me in the video? 🙂

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

Haha! You’ve got some SMOOTH MOVES, Kate! Absolutely amazing to watch.

katecrimmins - April 24, 2014

Yeah, I wish!

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

And, hey . . . you got all that Starbucks going for ya! And you socializing and exercising at the gym!

You and I can pick up Ballroom Dancing when we turn 75!

5. Pix Under the Oaks - April 24, 2014

Well… I do some of them. 😕

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

Me too! But there is room for improvement. Last night, I slept great ~ until 9:40! I didn’t want to miss water aerobics at 10 am, so I kicked it into high gear and flew over on my bike. AFTER a quick cup of coffee.

6. My Light Bag - April 24, 2014

I agree with all those points and try to implement them in my daily life. Apart from the ballroom dancing.. 😉

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

Once your arm is out of the cast, I’m sure you’ll be excited to get back on the yoga mat.

My Light Bag - April 25, 2014

Oh yes, there’s no question about that! I’ve already started doing some stretches that don’t require my wrist 🙂

nrhatch - April 25, 2014

Awesome! Take it easy on that wrist . . . slow and steady.

7. Don - April 24, 2014

I was just blown away by the video. Your words, Nancy, and the video came together in one great big celebration of health, movement and vitality. Wonderful

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

That video is a terrific example that we don’t get old because we age . . . we get old if we let ourselves RUST.

“I like to move it, move it!”

8. suzicate - April 24, 2014

I saw this video the other day on FB,,,love it! She is an amazing lady.

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

I’ve watched this video a couple of time and LOVE her, her partner, the guys back stage, and Simon’s expressions . . . first of boredom and then of AWE!

9. Behind the Story - April 24, 2014

The eighty-year-old woman has a wonderful story and lovely legs. I would have liked to see her do more dancing (which I believe she could do) and less being thrown around. But then that wouldn’t have attracted Simon’s attention. I like your list. I need to do more dancing and maybe drink more coffee.

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

She’s an inspiration ~ especially the back walk-over. WOW! She has more agility than I did as a teen-ager. I love how the mouths of the judges drop open when she kicked it into “high gear.”

I drink 2 cups of coffee a day. That’s enough for me . . . but it is nice to know that it has positive benefits if I need more than that. And I love to dance, but I have a long way to go if I want to keep up with her!

10. colonialist - April 24, 2014

Some of what he says is too good to be true – ENCOURAGING one to drink coffee!

nrhatch - April 24, 2014
11. bluebee - April 24, 2014

That lady is testament to the fact that nobody has to give in to getting old! I play golf, read, study, take job roles that challenge me, spend time laughing and talking nonsense with my husband and friends. And I love coffee 🙂

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

Isn’t she? She’s a powerhouse! And go you ~> exercise, reading, laughing, being silly, and drinking coffee are great secret weapons to have in your Anti-Aging Arsenal.

12. Joanne - April 24, 2014

Nancy, I finally found your blog hiding in my spam box… ! I was wondering where you’ve been… Don’t know how that happened, however, I do know now to check the spam before emptying….

Great post…! One of the things I’ve recently added to all of my other activities is ballroom dancing. I’ve certainly been discovering how and why it’s useful for training the brain…!

nrhatch - April 24, 2014

Hi Joanne! Thanks for fishing me out of the SPAM filter ~ it can be dark and lonely in there.

I’m so glad you’ve added ballroom dancing to your life. It seems like the “fountain of youth.”

13. viviankirkfield - April 24, 2014

Love all of these points, Nancy…and, except for the caffeine, I think kids can be encouraged to do them as well. 🙂

nrhatch - April 25, 2014

I think that’s the secret, Vivian . . . if we don’t want to get old, we must remain child-like and remember to Have Fun!

14. Give Your Brain A Boost . . . With A Book | Spirit Lights The Way - April 25, 2014

[…] Related: Fight Brain Drain & Set Your Mind On Fire (Andra) * Your Brain On Jane (NPR) * Cross Train Your Brain […]

15. jannatwrites - April 25, 2014

# 5 makes me wish I liked coffee! I’m not good at planned exercise, but I like to believe that our work in the yard counts 🙂

nrhatch - April 25, 2014

Work . . . outside . . . in nature? That’s got to be good for body, mind, and spirit! Gardening is a healthy hobbies, unless we fumigate the yard with pesticides and herbicides. 😎

It is the caffeine in the coffee that decreases the risk of Alzheimers. Chocolate has caffeine. Enough said.

16. Grannymar - April 25, 2014

If I drink coffee and eat chocolate will the effects work in double quick time ❓

nrhatch - April 25, 2014

That sounds like a plan!

17. diannegray - April 25, 2014

I don’t do ballroom dancing, but I do get a load of exercise in my house (I was laying flooring yesterday, today I’m painting walls and ceilings) 😉

YAY – for the coffee, I’m about to have another and I feel so much better about it now 😀

nrhatch - April 25, 2014

The RUC is lucky to have you ~> a new lease on life! Enjoy that coffee. It also lowers the risk of diabetes by 35%.

18. I am J - April 25, 2014

Interesting info, Nancy. Isn’t it strange that the most common sense things to do to enhance our quality of life are the ones we most forget to do?

I love the suggestion to “Tickle your funny bone chakra.” For years I have loved belly-dancing (because I can do it alone and don’t need a partner.) I can’t actually belly-dance because I’m not coordinated, but I do try and I sure can laugh a lot at my efforts. I can get parts moving that aren’t supposed to be moving and can’t stop them once they start. My best version of a shimmy is uncontrollable laughter. I hope this all helps to reduce my risk for Alzheimer’s, but if it doesn’t, then maybe my belly-dancing is better left forgotten.

Seriously, though, I learned a lot from this post and see several areas when I can certainly do a whole lot more to help myself – and others.

nrhatch - April 26, 2014

In Maryland, one of our AmeriCorps members was a professional belly dancer. She gave a class to the A/C members. So funny. Especially Randy, dancing with swords and veils with swoops and sweeps.

That said, it’s great exercise and it requires focus. So shimmy and shake (and laugh) your way to brain health!

19. sufilight - April 27, 2014

I do my best to move my body. If it’s raining I get on the treadmill which I don’t like too much or dance around our home, which I enjoy. 😀

nrhatch - April 27, 2014

I’m exercising a bit more AND sleeping better as a result. Our brains and bodies benefit when we walk, bike, swim, dance, etc..

When “they” are happy, we are happy.

20. Three Well Beings - April 28, 2014

I’m very happy to hear that coffee isn’t taboo. I need my coffee. 🙂 I like the list overall. I think except for the ballroom dancing, I’m doing well. If my dancing partner didn’t need a new hip I think we’d be signing up! LOL!

nrhatch - April 28, 2014

I didn’t know that J had a hip replacement looming on the horizon. Here’s hoping it all goes well and that he’ll soon be hiking and dancing with you again.

21. joannevalentinesimson - May 3, 2014


nrhatch - May 3, 2014

It’s great when the things that are good for us are pleasures.

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