Archive for the ‘exercise and brain health’ Category

Exercise May Be Prescription for ADHD

May 23, 2015

exercise1Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but research shows that it may be especially so in children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Researchers at Michigan State University have found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD. In another study in the Journal of Attention Disorders, researchers found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids.

The improvements came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks). Executive functioning is impaired in ADHD, and tied to performance in math and reading.

These findings help support the belief that physical activity may be an effective intervention for ADHD in combination with common existing treatment strategies for ADHD such as amphetamines and other stimulants.
John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, suggests that people think of exercise as medication for ADHD. Even very light physical activity improves mood and cognitive performance by triggering the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, similar to the way that stimulant medications like Adderall do.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping students of all ages improve study, reading, math and cognitive skills, including memory. We also have customized programs for students with ADHD and learning disabilities. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Physical Workouts Aid Brain Health

May 16, 2015

ballroom4The best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy.

According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, exercising for just 20 minutes not only helps your keep in shape physically, it also facilitates the brain’s information processing and memory functions.

When you exercise, your heart rate increases and this pumps more oxygen to your brain while releasing numerous hormones that provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain.

Tips for choosing the right physical exercise:

  • Exercise in the morning—It not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also helps you retain new information and react better to complex situations
  • Aerobic exercise improves brain function and acts as a “first aid kit” for damaged brain cells
  • Activities that incorporate coordination along with cardiovascular exercise—such as ballroom dancing—have a higher impact on cognitive functioning than mental tasks alone
  • At the gym, opt for circuit workouts, which both quickly spike your heart rate and constantly redirect your attention
  • If you’re mentally exhausted, reboot with a few jumping jacks for your brain improvement exercises

Optiminds offers brain fitness programs designed specifically for adults and seniors. These individualized, customized sessions help you take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive strength and concentration.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping students of all ages improve study, reading, math and cognitive skills, including memory. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Physical Activity Improves Children’s Thinking Skills

October 16, 2014

kidsexerciseThere is increasing evidence that being active helps not just children’s waistlines but also their brains.

A recent study published in Pediatrics shows that 7- to 9-year-old children who run around and play for at least 70 minutes a day demonstrate improved thinking skills, particularly in multitasking, compared to children who aren’t as active.

For the study, researchers looked at a nine-month after-school program during which students spent 70 minutes running around and playing tag, soccer, jump rope and other games. In one multitasking test, children were shown a character on the screen and indicated with a thumb press whether the character was a certain color and a certain shape. Children who participated in the program were significantly faster and more accurate at identifying the color and shape than children who weren’t exercising.

Scans of the children’s brains showed increased brain activity during the task, in a network known to correspond to paying attention. Interestingly, the changes in brain activity correlated to the amount of time kids spent in in the program. The more times they attended, the greater the change.

Exercise encourages the brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. Animal tests have also illustrated that during exercise their nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and has a direct benefit on brain functions, including learning.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Care and Feeding of the Aging Brain

June 14, 2014

brainfoods1We are learning more about the human brain every day, but there is still much about it that remains a mystery. One thing we do know is that our brains can deteriorate if we don’t take care of them.

So here are some things you can try to keep your “gray matter” healthy:

Eat brain-healthy foods—Choose foods that are lower in fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of dark fruits and vegetables, fish and lean proteins. Instead of candy, snack on almonds and blueberries. Healthy snacks can lower blood sugar and improve cognition. Also, the Omega-3s in walnuts have been found to improve mood and calm inflammation that may lead to brain-cell death.

Read for half an hour a day— The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books (in addition to other cognitive activities) can lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia.

Exercise—Walking your dog or yourself for just 20 minutes a day can lower blood sugar and increase blood flow to the brain so you can think more clearly. Don’t forget about dancing. Learning new moves activates brain motor centers that form new neural connections.

Be a social animal—According to the Yale Medical Center, people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer.

Become a student again—Challenge your mind by taking courses at your local college, university, community college or adult education center. Many institutions offer discounts for senior students.

Learn a musical instrument—Recent studies show that after only four months of playing an instrument an hour a week, seniors experienced improvements in the areas of the brain that control hearing, memory and hand movement.

Improve your powers of observation—Stare straight ahead and see if you can make out what’s at the periphery. Walk down the street and scan to the left and right. These actions activate rarely used areas of the brain that can atrophy if not used enough.

Get out of your comfort zone—Try tasks that are opposite your natural skills. If you like numbers, learn to draw. If you love language, try logic puzzles.

Write it down—Research shows that handwriting helps stimulate the areas of the brain that deal with thinking, language and memory. Write stories or keep a daily journal for starters.

Sleep—Seven or eight hours of good sleep a night helps prevent memory loss and gives the brain to relax and process things you learned during the day.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Get Moving to Strengthen Your Brain

April 14, 2014

As we age, our brains shrink a little, but they continue to create new neurons and fine-tune neural connections as long as we are alive. So if you want to increase the new growth, start exercising.

Aerobic exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which encourages the release of a chemical called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons near the hippocampus, which is the area involved in memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions. It also repairs cell damage and strengthens the synapses that connect brain cells.

In short, exercise reduces the level of brain loss, keeps us cognitively sharp and reduces our risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And regular exercise can pump up your brainpower regardless of your age. So if, for example, you are 55 years old and have never exercised, it’s not too late.

In a classic study, people aged 60 to 79 were asked to complete a six-month walking program. At the conclusion of the study, participants showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus, and levels of BDNF comparable to levels normally found in people almost two years younger.

Aim for about two and a half hours of brisk activity a week. Walking is great but if you have mobility issues, try walking in the pool, riding a stationary bike or practicing yoga or tai chi.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. Be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Research Shows Exercise Is Good for Your Brain

October 9, 2013

Neuroscientists, psychologists and physicians all agree—Exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain. Laura Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, concurs: “If we had a pill that could do what exercise does, its sales would put Viagra’s to shame.”

Research continues to show that cognitive decline is not inevitable. Brain volume may shrink as we age, but the brain continues to make new neurons and fine-tune neural connections as long as we live.

Aerobic exercise, for example, reduces the level of brain loss and keeps cognitive abilities sharp. It slashes the lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half and the risk of general dementia by 60 percent.

Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, spurring the release of a chemical that stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions. This same chemical also repairs cell damage and strengthens synapses, which connect brain cells.

exercisebrain3It’s never too late for your brain to benefit from exercise either. A now-classic study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people 60 to 79 years of age who completed a six-month program of walking briskly on a regular basis showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus—the first time scientists have been able to demonstrate this.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Exercise as a Non-Drug Treatment for Kids With ADHD

May 25, 2013

We’ve talked about exercise helping seniors prevent dementia. But researchers are also finding that a few minutes of exercise can also help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) perform better academically.

A recent Michigan State University study shows for the first time that kids with ADHD can better drown out distractions and focus on a task after a single bout of exercise. The results are important because they suggest exercise as a possible nonpharmaceutical tool for preventing ADHD.

While drugs have proven largely effective in treating many of the 2.5 million school-aged American children with ADHD, a growing number of parents and physicians worry about the side effects and costs of medication.

The study had 40 children aged 8 to 10, half of whom had ADHD, spend 20 minutes either walking briskly on a treadmill or reading while seated. The children then took a brief reading comprehension and math exam similar to longer standardized tests. They also played a simple computer game in which they had to ignore visual stimuli to quickly determine which direction a cartoon fish was swimming.

The results showed all of the children performed better on both tests after exercising. In the computer game, those with ADHD also were better able to slow down after making an error to avoid repeat mistakes—a particular challenge for those with the disorder.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring and ADHD programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Get Moving to Delay Dementia

May 15, 2013

Reducing Alzheimer’s risk factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking and low physical activity by just 25 percent could prevent up to half a million cases of the disease in the United States.

Experts believe that if you do only one thing to keep your brain young, it would be to exercise. Higher exercise levels can reduce dementia risk by 30 to 40 percent compared with low activity levels. Physically active people tend to maintain better cognition and memory than inactive people, and also have substantially lower rates of different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Working outweighttraining1 helps the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory formation. The hippocampus shrinks as we age, leading to memory loss. Research suggests that exercise can reverse the shrinking process.

Experts recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, but even as little as 15 minutes of regular exercise three times a week can be beneficial to the brain.

One study found that older women who participated in a weight training program did 13 percent better in terms of cognitive function than women who did balance and toning exercises. Researchers believe that resistance training may increase the levels of growth factors in the brain.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.


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