Train the brain - what does it take to stay fit when thinking?

Have you already done something for your mental fitness today? The saying "use it or lose it" doesn't just apply to your muscles, but also to your brain! We show you how to stay mentally active.

We only use 10 percent of our brain - Is that true?

Your brain is a complex organ. It weighs between 1.5 and 2 kg, has about 86 billion brain cells and makes up only 3 per cent of the total body weight. Your thinking organ controls your movements, helps you make decisions, shapes your personality - to name just a few tasks. 

But is it true that we only use 10 per cent of them? No! Your brain consists of different areas that have different functions. Depending on the situation or task, different brain regions are activated more than others. When you speak, your speech centre is active. When you touch something, a different region is involved.

Conclusion: Depending on the situation, you use every area of your brain and the areas are also linked to each other. Therefore, brain training should include both thinking tasks and exercises aimed at physical activity.

What is brain jogging?

You do sport regularly to keep fit? Great! But besides your body, your brain also needs a workout to stay efficient. The term brain jogging stands for exercises that keep your mind fit. Brain training is meant to train your memory and improve your ability to concentrate

Think of your brain as a muscle. If you don't exercise it regularly, it atrophies. For example, a study1 by University College London found that the hippocampus of the London taxi drivers studied was more developed than that of other people. What is the reason for this?

The hippocampus serves as a switching point between short- and long-term memory. This is where facts and events are transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory. London is a huge city with many streets. Taxi drivers have to pass a demanding recruitment test, memorise street layouts and be able to navigate through the city. They use this knowledge every day in their work. 

Although it has not yet been precisely researched whether the neurons of the taxi drivers connect more with each other or whether new cells are even formed, one thing is certain - their hippocampus has a larger volume than that of the control group. 

Brainfood - The right food for the brain

Your diet is an important factor when it comes to increasing your mental and cognitive abilities. Vitamins are not only good for your immune system, but also protect your nerve cells. Vitamin B12 helps strengthen your nerves and improve concentration. You can find B12 in dairy products like cheese, but also in eggs and fish.

Your thinking organ is also largely made up of fat. That's why it's important to include healthy fats in your diet. Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and is essential for us humans. Your body cannot produce omega-3 itself, so it must be obtained through food. 

Omega-3 helps maintain normal vision and heart and brain function. It is involved in the formation of new nerve cells and has an anti-inflammatory effect. You can find it in foods like salmon or walnuts, but also in vegetable oil. 

Our tip: If you find it difficult to cover your daily requirement of omega-3 or are looking for a vegan alternative, try our omega-3 capsules. They are made from algae, the natural source of omega-3.

Why is brain training important in old age?

With age, cognitive abilities decline. We become more forgetful and our ability to learn deteriorates. This is because over the years the number of nerve cells is reduced and the brain volume decreases. 

However, an active lifestyle can counteract this and slow down these developments. Since the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus are the most susceptible to diseases such as Alzheimer's or dementia, regular exercise is recommended. Exercise helps to reduce the degradation of nerve cells in these areas. 

Memory training for seniors can include physical exertion as well as games that stimulate thinking and improve memory. Memo games can be used to train short-term memory. Quiz games or board games are also good for brain training with a fun factor. And this at any age! 

Get your brain in top shape with sport

Sport has many benefits for your physical and mental health. Exercise stimulates blood circulation and supplies your thinking organ with oxygen. But that's not all!

Studies2  have shown that the following changes already take place after a workout:

  • Your dopamine and serotonin levels increase after a workout. Dopamine acts like a reward system after you've overcome a challenge, and serotonin is a happiness hormone that makes you feel good in general. As a result, you'll be in a better mood!
  • Thanks to training, you can focus better. The prefrontal cortex is part of the frontal lobe and is located at the front of your brain. Why is it important? This area is active when you need to make a decision, concentrate and pay attention. Training improves the function of the prefrontal cortex and makes you more focused.
  • Your reaction time improves thanks to training.

If you exercise regularly, you will benefit from these changes in the long term. Even after a long day at the office, exercise acts as a counterbalance, reduces stress and literally clears your head! Physical activity activates the motor centre, allowing your prefrontal cortex to rest. 

In addition, exercise improves your memory! Studies3 have shown that regular workouts stimulate the formation of new neurons and increase the volume of the hippocampus. The result: you can remember things better! 

Drink a lot

Those who drink too little quickly become tired and can no longer concentrate well. Especially in older people, confusion can also be the result of a lack of fluids.
For adults, the German Nutrition Society recommends a daily drinking quantity of around 1.5 litres. It is important to drink regularly throughout the day. Ideal thirst quenchers are still water and unsweetened herbal or fruit teas. Juice spritzers mixed in a 1:3 ratio (1 part juice, 3 parts water) are also good.

By the way: coffee is also allowed. It is only important that you do not drink more than three to four cups a day and avoid caffeine, especially before going to bed.

4 tips for everyday life that keep your brain fit

1. enough sleep

That sounds like a pleasant task! Unfortunately, the importance of sleep is often underestimated. Too little sleep or poor quality sleep is detrimental to your health and has been linked to diseases such as Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Why do you need sleep? You process your day while you sleep. New information that is important is stored in your long-term memory and unimportant information is forgotten. In addition, toxins and waste products are disposed of during sleep. If you don't sleep enough, this has a negative effect on your ability to learn and concentrate. 

2. learn new things

Challenge your brain with new tasks to keep it active, learn new things and create new neuronal connections. The tasks should challenge you, but of course they should also be fun!

For example, you can learn a new language, play a new musical instrument or try out another hobby. The important thing is that you do something you have never done before. In addition, there are numerous brain training apps that keep you mentally fit with brain jogging exercises. 

3. social contacts

People are social beings. Regular interaction with others keeps you mentally fit and activates the nerve cells. Even in childhood, social interactions are essential for healthy development - both mentally and physically. 

The importance of social contacts does not diminish over the years. So your friendships leave a mark on your brain. One study4 found that the grey matter in certain regions of the brain is better preserved in old age in people with a busy social environment than in people who have few social contacts.

4. more movement in daily life

Brain training also works through movement. Try to incorporate more activity into your daily routine and thus regularly engage your movement centre. Coordination training is a good way to promote the interaction of sensory organs, your muscles and the peripheral and central nervous system. 

Your central nervous system includes nerve structures located in your brain and spinal cord. This is where stimuli from your environment are processed. The peripheral nervous system refers to nerve pathways that lie outside the central nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is responsible for the sensation of pain, cold or the control of movements. Information is transmitted to the central nervous system and vice versa.

Coordination training includes exercises that train your ability to balance and react. You can easily train your balance with one-legged exercises such as the standing balance. You can also try standing on your right leg and stretching your left leg out in front of you. Then draw a figure eight in the air with your left leg for a few repetitions. Do not touch the floor. Then switch sides.

Products for your mental fitness...