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Exercise is like fertiliser for your brain.

Constantly forgetting where you placed your keys, or standing stumped n front of the teller trying to recall your PIN number? Use these clever strategies to improve memory and ensure your mind stays agile.

Get Moving
More than mental gymnastics and diet, exercise is proving to be the single most important tool in overcoming brain fog. And for that you can thank a little protein called the “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF), which is produced during exercise and acts like fertiliser for your brain, stimulating new cell growth and increased cell connections. Brazilian researchers discovered that, when they tied tiny weights to the tails of lab rats, then sent them scurrying around treadmills, they registered higher levels of BDNF and improved memory over the couch rates. Choose aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, says Dr Gary Small, Director of UCLA Longevity Centre, although weight training has also shown to have benefits. Make sure you exercise regularly, rather than just hitting the gym hard on the weekend. If it’s a choice between settling in with a crossword puzzle and going for a walk, do the walk, he says. “The evidence that physical exercise protects the brain is very strong.” For the time-starved, the Freestyle Group Training session at Fitness First is an effective workout that takes just 30 minutes. It has both aerobic and strength training exercises that use equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells and suspension straps. The training session is suitable for participants of all fitness levels. Visit www.fitnessfirst.com.sg.

Eat Your Fruits And Vegetables
Low levels of antioxidants are associated with memory impairment, so boost your intake of jewel-coloured fruits and vegetables. Try pomegranates, which are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. Other excellent sources include cranberries, prunes, plums, blueberries, garlic, red cabbage and beetroot. An easy way to get an antioxidant boost is to drink a bottle of Brands InnerShine Berry Essence with Grape Seed Extract, $24.90 (6 bottles). Grape Seed Extract is a powerful ingredient as it contains higher antioxidant properties than vitamin C by 20 times and vitamin E by 50 times.

Go To Sleep!
Sleep not only allows the brain and body to wind down for the day and repair itself, its anti-inflammatory effect also battles neural degeneration. Getting a good night’s sleep has a positive impact on that inflammatory process and may explain why people who regularly sleep well have more energy. To get better sleep, pass on caffeine in the evening, ease into the night by avoiding exercise or stress, and practise good “sleep hygiene” by sleeping at the same time daily. Drinking Chamomile tea or taking supplements such as Clinicians REM Sleep capsules, $36.90 (60 capsules) may also help relax you before you sleep. The capsules contain vitamins, minerals and herbs that help calm your mind and body.

Find Balance
Aside from its stress-busting benefits, yoga, dance, tai chi, Pilates and similar balancing activities stimulate brain neural circuits to send a message from the brain to the body. Dr Small says, “Brain health benefits from balance and stability exercises could result, in part, from this focused form of cognitive training.” For a Pilates session that balances both mind and body, try PowerMoves Pilates, which has three studios all set in tranquil park settings so you can enjoy lush greenery as you work out your core muscles. Visit www.powermoves.com.sg.

Meditate Mindfully
According to a Harvard Medical School study, spending 30 minutes a day on deep breathing as a tool for meditation can help reduce stress and increase mental focus. Researchers there conducted MRI scans at the beginning and the end of the eight-week study period. They found that the final MRI scans showed an increase in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory. Volunteers were also able to more easily release distracting thoughts, thereby boosting their ability to concentrate.

Focus On Fish
Wild fish and fish oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good not only for mood, but memory. The brain is made up of 100 billion cells, which use 20 per cent of your body’s oxygen and 20 per cent of your calorie intake. Each cell needs that energy to connect via 40,000 synapses to other cells. Among key cell nutrients are omega-3 fatty acids. Find omega-3 in oily fish, eggs, nuts, soybeans and olive oil.

Bump up lean protein
Protein is critical for brain power because it provides the amino acids needed to produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters. If you don’t eat adequate protein at every meal, your brain can’t work and you will feel sluggish, foggy, anxious, unfocused, tired and depressed. Good sources include fish, poultry, beans, nuts, eggs, soy, cheese or seeds.

Text: Bauer/Good Health/Additional text: Annie Tan
Photo: 123RF