It’s one thing to have your heart working properly or your body looking youthful, but for a truly long and healthy life, you should also consider your brain and mental health as you age.
Brain Gym is a series of cognitive learning exercises that are great for all ages, which is why the mental health workout is used everywhere from classrooms to retirement homes. As the aging process progresses, physical activity remains vital for not just maintaining a healthy appearance, but also so your brain and mental health remain intact. A Brain Gym anti-aging fitness routine allows you to enjoy living and learning through simple movement activities.
The creation of Brain Gym originated with Paul Dennison, PhD, and his wife and colleague Gail Dennison, who incorporated fun movements as an innovative and educational approach to mental health and brain health. Brain Gym became a household name for anti-aging and mental health after the 1986 release of the Dennisons’ book, Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning.
Brain Gym International (also referred to as the Educational Kinesiology Foundation) was founded in 1987 in Ventura, California, and is currently being used to enhance mental health in over 87 countries and is translated in over 40 languages.
How Brain Gym Works for Mental Health
People who practice Brain Gym on a daily basis have shown improvement within many factors concerning mental and brain health, including concentration and focus, memory retention, physical coordination, and self-responsibility. Students have demonstrated enhancements in various academics areas, such as writing, reading, math, and test taking, while both students and adults have shown improvements in organization skills, improved relationships, and an overall more positive attitude toward life and wellness.
There are a total of 26 Brain Gym activities and exercises that are designed to improve mental health by integrating the body and the mind. When we’re born, we first develop a proper understanding of coordination by naturally moving our eyes, ears, hands, and, eventually, our whole body—the Brain Gym exercises are reminiscent of the movements we make in those early stages of life.
Today, many teachers, wellness practitioners, mental health professionals, and anti-aging experts have been educated through Brain Gym 101, bringing the movements to students, business professionals, and seniors worldwide.
Why Brain Gym is Essential for Mental Health and Anti-Aging
When is a good time to begin a cognitive anti-aging fitness routine to improve mental health? You can begin at anytime and at any age, which is why you can even find 90-year-old seniors practicing the Brain Gym movements in retirement homes. These anti-aging fitness exercises are very versatile, and can be modified for people using wheelchairs or walkers.
The Brain Gym exercises are extremely beneficial for older adults’ mental health because, along with improving concentration and memory, they also double as a stress management technique—stress management is imperative for maintaining your mental health as you get older. Actively participating in Brain Gym can balance moods and reduce the risk of depression as you get older.
The cognitive Brain Gym exercises help seniors continue learning into old age, which alters behavior and enhances physical and mental health over time while also fixing damaged areas of the brain. The integrative movements effectively develop new brain cells, while building healthy neural networks. This can help prevent or slow down neuro-degeneration diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Along with mental health, the Brain Gym exercises can improve physical health as well by enhancing vision, hearing, coordination, and mobility. They also maintain proper sleeping patterns, energy levels, and balance.
Brain Gym vs. Yoga for Mental Health
There are definitely some similarities between some yoga postures and the Brain Gym exercises.
Brain Gym’s “grounder” exercise is a lengthening movement, where the benefits include comprehension, short- and long-term memory, grounding, centering, and whole body relaxation. The grounder is a modification of the warrior II position in yoga, where your arms would be placed on your hips instead of an extended T-position in the yoga posture.
There is also a similarity between Brain Gym’s cross crawl sit-ups and the yoga bicycle. The cross-crawl sit-ups benefit reading, listening, math, mechanics, spelling, and writing. It’s essentially a modified yoga bicycle, where you lie on your back with your hands behind your head, alternating each elbow to opposite knees with every breath.
Both Brain Gym and yoga are effective anti-aging fitness routines to enhance brain and mental health as you get older. For the best results, try incorporating both into your own anti-aging fitness routine.
“What is ‘BRAIN GYM?’” Brain Gym International web site; http://www.braingym.org/about, last accessed December 30, 2013.
“‘Brain Gym’ Program,” ProgramsForElderly.com; http://www.programsforelderly.com/memory-brain-gym.php, last accessed December 30, 2013.
“Use it…Don’t Lose it! Aging Population, Quality of Life and Cognitive Fitness,” Brain Works Global Inc. web site; http://www.brainworksglobal.com/main/wp-content/themes/peekaboo/articles/36_Brain_Bites_April_2011.pdf, last accessed December 30, 2013.
This article originally appeared on agein.com and is written by Jon Yaneff