Category Archives: brain exercise

Study links intelligence and chess skill

For the record I got very involved in playing chess in my younger years. I loved the game’s many facets and spent hours poring over the board. Ultimately, I gave it up to play backgammon. I found the element of chance in backgammon to be more appealing. That random aspect coupled with the fact that a lot of people played backgammon for money won me over. That was never the case in chess.

Intelligence – and not just relentless practice – plays a significant role in determining chess skill, indicates a comprehensive new study led by Michigan State University researchers.

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The research provides some of the most conclusive evidence to date that cognitive ability is linked to skilled performance – a hotly debated issue in psychology for decades – and refutes theories that expertise is based solely on intensive training.

“Chess is probably the single most studied domain in research on expertise, yet the evidence for the relationship between chess skill and cognitive ability is mixed,” said MSU’s Alexander Burgoyne, lead author on the study. “We analyzed a half-century worth of research on intelligence and chess skill and found that cognitive ability contributes meaningfully to individual differences in chess skill.” Continue reading

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Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills

Eat less; move more; live longer. That is the mantra of this blog. moving more keeps the organic machines we know as our bodies in tip top shape. As it turns out exercise is also good for the old cabeza.

Moderate-intensity exercise can help improve your thinking and memory in just six months.

You probably already know that exercising is necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep your heart strong, maintain a healthy body weight, and stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes. But exercise can also help boost your thinking skills. “There’s a lot of science behind this,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors — chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.

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It also acts directly on the brain itself. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. McGinnis. Continue reading

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Tips on sharpening your brain – WebMD

I write about exercise almost daily and about the brain nearly as often, but I think they really need to be tied together for the best understanding. Also, because we all want to live past 100, we certainly want the old cabeza to fully functional.

WebMD has a nice 12 part slide show  called Tips to stay smart, sharp and focused. If you want to experience the entire show, just click the link above. I am have picked out a few examples for the folks too lazy busy to do the whole thing right now.

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Number one is superb: USE YOUR BRAIN  “It’s true: Use it or lose it. Stretching your brain keeps your mind sharp. People who are more active in mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp. Try these:
•    Read a book.
•    Go to a lecture.
•    Listen to the radio.
•    Play a game.
•    Visit a museum.
•    Learn a second language.”
Continue reading

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Seniors need to get out of that comfort zone – NYT

I have written several posts on why people are discounting in the mainstream media regarding their second rate and slanted coverage of Donald Trump and the recent election. However, I want to point out that this piece from the New York Times is superb reporting. So, the grey lady lives on.

The article was How to become a Superager by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She is the author of the forthcoming “How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.”

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She asks, “Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. ”

In providing the answer, she gets into some labyrinthine details on how the brain functions. If you want to go there just click on the link to the article and enjoy. Continue reading

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World chess champion on exercise – WSJ

I have written it previously and I will repeat it: I love it when the news meets my bias. This week Jen Murphy wrote in the Wall Street Journal about three time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen and his training. Think about it, nothing is less physical and more cerebral than a game of chess, right? Yet, Mr. Carlsen says, “… he believes a healthy diet and physical training are crucial for a chess master to remain at peak, just as they are for other types of athletes. “I get bored very easily, so I don’t do well in the gym,” Mr. Carlsen says. “Luckily for me, I have a real love of sport.”

Isn’t that wonderful?! He considers a healthy diet and physical training to be ‘crucial’ for success in chess.

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World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen became a Grand master at the age of 13, one of the youngest in history.

How does he work out? “When Mr. Carlsen is on the road for a tournament, he depends on his workouts to help him relieve tension and relax. He might run intervals on the treadmill at a hotel gym, adjusting the incline and intensity for 30 to 60 minutes. “Running is a time where I can go through game strategies,” he says.
After he gets his heart rate up, he winds down with a series of stretches, or he will flow through yoga sequences for 20 minutes. “Much of my core work comes from yoga,” he says. “I’m not the type to go to the gym and run through reps and sets of exercise. I need something more fluid and fun.” If he can find a hot yoga studio, he’ll attend a class.”

I love that a chess grand master includes healthy food and good exercise in his training regimen. Keep in mind that he is just practicing what I have been preaching here for some years. Although the rest of us aren’t grand masters and maybe don’t even play chess, the same principles apply. Eat intelligently and exercise regularly to succeed in living a healthy life.

You can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) for more info on this critical subject.

Tony

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Filed under brain exercise, Exercise, exercise and brain health, Wall Street Journal

How Cardiovascular Exercise Helps the Brain

In view of Thanksgiving being right around the corner and holiday parties soon after, I thought it propitious to show you this again.

Tony

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

With Thanksgiving looming, this is a great time to reaffirm our resolve to exercise regularly. OR, it is the ideal time to resolve to exercise regularly in the coming year and maybe begin to address physical and weight problems that we have neglected.

Regular readers know that I have posted numerous times on the value of exercise not only for our bodies, but also for our brains. On the top of this page is IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT YOUR BRAIN.

If you click on that link you can find a page full of blog posts on the subject.

Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food. Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food.

And now, the New York Times joins in the fray with Gretchen Reynolds’s article Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain.

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Increasing Muscle Strength Can Improve Brain Function

Increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function in adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), new results from a recent trial led by the University of Sydney has revealed.

Regular readers know how strongly I feel about exercise benefiting the brain as much as the body. A look at my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) will fill you in. What is exciting about this study is that it focuses on weight training. Most of the exercise benefits I have read about follow cardio work. So, this is indeed new and exciting.

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With 135 million people forecast to suffer from dementia in 2050, the study’s findings–published in the Journal of American Geriatrics –have implications for the type and intensity of exercise that is recommended for our growing aging population. Continue reading

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7 Benefits of regular physical Exercise – Mayo Clinic

You know exercise is good for you, but do you know how good? From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, find out how exercise can improve your life.
Want to feel better, have more energy and even add years to your life? Just exercise.
The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. Everyone benefits from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.
Need more convincing to get moving? Check out these seven ways exercise can lead to a happier, healthier you.

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1. Exercise controls weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.
Regular trips to the gym are great, but don’t worry if you can’t find a large chunk of time to exercise every day. To reap the benefits of exercise, just get more active throughout your day — take the stairs instead of the elevator or rev up your household chores. Consistency is key. Continue reading

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Brain exercises – all hype? – Wall Street Journal

As a senior citizen, 76 years old as of this writing, I think that the condition of my brain is probably my number one priority. Right there along with the physical condition of my body. Also, regular readers know that I have several cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family on both parents’ sides. So the concept of impaired cognition has my full attention.

I know that most of my contemporaries and younger compatriots are also very sensitive about their mental condition. Everyone experiences ‘senior moments,’ but they are not funny to those of us over 60.

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When I attended the ‘Healthy Transitions’ talks at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (for folks over 50), the most well-attended were the lectures on cognitive impairment and dementia. Always a packed house. This is a very hot topic for seniors.For these reasons, I have particular contempt for the snake oil salesmen who try to prey on seniors’ fears of cognitive impairment. These include the drug companies that offer surefire memory boosters and particularly the brain games. I have written a number of posts about the ineffectiveness of these games. You can access them by checking out my Page – Brain games for seniors – What you need to know.

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7 Habits That Make Your Brain Work Better

Lots of good information here. Because of my family  history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, these positive habits rang a bell with me.

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To read further on them, you can check my pages:

Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)

How important is a good night’s sleep?

I have written a number of posts on dealing with stress. You can check them out by typing in the word s t r e s s in the search box. I recommend the following one which I wrote in 2010 as one of the most useful:

Some super tools for handling stress

Tony

Our Better Health

In a hyper-competitive world overflowing with information, our brains need to be able to keep up and outpace our competitors. Who doesn’t want their brain to process faster, remember more information or be able to come up with elegant solutions to complex problems? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Our brains more or less define our existence and who we are. So how can we get our brains to work better, faster and more efficiently?

HERE ARE SEVEN HABITS THAT WILL HELP IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN FUNCTION:

1. EXERCISE REGULARLY

Exercising promotes blood flow, cardiac health and releases beneficial hormones and proteins into your body. These hormones and proteins protect your neurons, which are the cells that make up most of your brain, and encourage them to multiply and make new connections. Studies have shown that exercise helps you learn faster and remember more information. Further studies have shown…

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Activity protects seniors’ motor functions – Tufts

Because I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I am extremely sensitive to news about the brain. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to read further.

Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter reports, “Physical activity helps preserve mobility and motor skills as you age—and not just by keeping your muscles in shape. A new study suggests that activity also maintains mobility by protecting your brain. Even in people with signs of brain aging called white matter hyperintensities (WMH) associated with movement issues, being more active seemed to allow the brain to compensate.

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“Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, says of the findings, “Although the study cannot determine causality because of its cross-sectional design, their results are consistent with a number of other studies that have shown that increased physical activity protects mobility.”“BRAIN SPOTS AND MOBILITY: The study, published in the journal Neurology, subjected 167 people without dementia, ages 60 to 96, to a battery of tests. They had MRI scans of their brains, wore activity monitors for up to 11 full days, and underwent 11 motor-performance tests, such as grip strength, finger tapping and lower-body function. Continue reading

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Musical Training Shapes Brain Anatomy and Affects Function

“As today’s findings show, intense musical training generates new processes within the brain, at different stages of life, and with a range of impacts on creativity, cognition, and learning.”

Cooking with Kathy Man

New findings show that extensive musical training affects the structure and function of different brain regions, how those regions communicate during the creation of music, and how the brain interprets and integrates sensory information. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the

These insights suggest potential new roles for musical training including fostering plasticity in the brain, an alternative tool in education, and treating a range of learning disabilities.

Today’s new findings show that:

  • Long-term high level musical training has a broader impact than previously thought. Researchers found that musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight (see source).
  • The age at which musical training begins affects brain anatomy as an adult; beginning training before the age of seven has the greatest impact (see source).
  • Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance…

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Is Physical Exercise Better Than Brain Exercise for Seniors?

The split between mind and body seems clearest in the realm of exercise. Each is good for us, but is one better?

Professor Sam Wang, Ph.D. Molecular Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, Princeton University covers the subject extensively in Lecture 23 of his course The Neuroscience of Everyday Life which I am currently taking from The Great Courses.

Opinion has been split on the subject.

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigor.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero – 65 BC.

“Exercise invigorates and enlivens all the faculties of body and mind…. It spreads a gladness and a satisfaction over our minds and qualifies us for every sort of business, and every sort of pleasure.” – John Adams, Second President of the U.S.

On the other hand, that curmudgeon, Mark Twain said, “I take my only exercise acting as pallbearer at the funeral of my friends who exercise regularly.”

This is the illustration from the Neuroscience course booklet

The business of brain-training is a multi-million dollar operation. It includes software and games we can play on our computers, Nintendo, smart phones as well as specialized machines. Also, there are the puzzles, like Sudoku, crosswords and other pattern recognition games.

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