A new year for brain fitness

Posted on January 05, 2011 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

Happy New Year!  This time of year is always filled with excitement and optimism as many of us use the “newness” of the calendar change to outline our goals and even reinvent ourselves.  So let's discuss something positive.

There is no doubt that many Americans will place ‘physical fitness’ atop their New Year’s resolutions lists.  But what about ‘brain fitness’?  Should this also be on our lists?

This is an interesting topic and can be fodder for invigorating discussion. Some people believe brain fitness activities are of limited cognitive value while others believe the results are obvious.  The purpose of this blog is not to debate the science involving brain fitness, but to discuss it.  (Interesting book and article about myths related to brain health can be found at: http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2010/12/27/debunking-10-cognitive-health-and-fitness-myths/#more-7101)

As our population ages and people become concerned about their cognitive viability, the topic of brain fitness is becoming more main stream.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to speak with Sue Maxwell, systems director of gerontology and older adult services at Lee Memorial Health System. Sue has implemented the Healthy Brain Initiative, a 4-week course teaching brain health serving Lee County in Southwest Florida.

More than 4,000 people have attended the classes so far, and there continues to be strong interest in the community.  Sue has also created a brain fitness center, which offers cognitive-based computer games such as dakim Brain Fitness and Cognifit as well as other activities for both healthy and cognitively impaired participants.

In both situations, her idea is simple:

1) Give people the tools and education to keep their healthy brains “fit”, and maybe, just maybe, this can delay an onset of dementia

2) Give people who have cognitive impairment the tools that might fight the progression of the disorder, and these people will feel empowered.  While the computer games have not been proven to slow the progression of cognitive impairment, they certainly don’t hurt!

We have often heard that, “the brain is a muscle, so you have to use it like any other muscle to build it up.” Maybe we should consider making brain fitness part of our New Year’s resolutions?

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