Summer is without a doubt the best time to get outside and play. There’s so much to do like hiking, cycling, or paddling.
It is also the perfect time to take charge of our brain health. We often hear that being active is great for our heart and muscles, but let’s not forget what it can do for our brain. Exercise helps protect our brain cells and encourages the growth of new ones by boosting levels of growth factors called neurotrophins.
When we are armed with healthy brain cells, we can protect our memory and thinking skills. In fact, regular physical activity can even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Having an active lifestyle is a great way to keep our brain in shape. But we can also complement exercise with other activities that can improve our brain health.
Here are just a few things you can do this summer:
Social interactions have a big impact on our brain health and quality of life. Being social can provide resiliency to stress and inflammation which can promote better cognitive function and slow the natural decline of memory as we age.
Tip: Take a hike, run, or bike with some friends. We can always use the encouragement and good company!
You really are what you eat. Fruits and vegetables, like blueberries and kale, are high in antioxidants which are critical to brain function as they protect the brain from potentially toxic molecules.
Tip: Take advantage of the large selection of Ontario fruits and vegetables in season and pack them as snacks for a hike.
Getting a good night’s rest is often easier after a good workout. Sleep helps us solidify our memories and strengthen connections between our brain cells which are important for keeping our learning and memory in check.
Tip: Wind down your day by reading a book instead of watching a screen before going to bed.
We can keep our cognitive skills in check and build functional connections in the brain when we learn new skills.
Tip: Challenge yourself and try your hand at orienteering, a combination of outdoor physical adventure with map reading and navigational skills.
So, go ahead, be active outdoors this summer. But don’t stop there because you can keep these good habits with you all year round. Your brain will thank you.
The Ontario Brain Institute is a provincially funded, not-for-profit research centre seeking to maximize the impact of neuroscience and establish Ontario as a world leader in brain research, commercialization and care.