Brain Aerobics Class To Give Tips on Keeping the Mind Engaged

Quick. Write down all the parts of the body you can think of that are three letters long.

Had to think about it, didn’t you?

Fitness isn’t just about squats, lunges and cardio. It’s also about staying mentally nimble.

So just like pumping iron builds muscle, engaging the brain in thinking tasks helps build brain connections. Think of it as “brain aerobics,” which will be the topic of one of the classes as Tucson Medical Center celebrates Brain Week from May 14-18.

 Brain imagery has shown that when the brain is engaged in tasks like recalling a name, for example, blood rushes to the active area of the brain dong all the work, carrying oxygen and nutrients which nourish the brain cells.

“For years, experts believed that our brains stopped growing after childhood, and there was nothing we could do as adults to strengthen brain functioning. In the last decade, researchers have found that brain cells are capable of making new connections and actually growing, no matter our age,” said Anne Morrison, coordinator of senior services at TMC and co-presenter of the mental fitness class.

Morrison said that while brain exercises such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku, for example, continue to be important, it is in challenging the brain to learn new things that cell growth is really encouraged.

If you incorporate additional senses or movement into these exercises, it will promote even more growth, Morrison noted. Some options might be learning a new instrument, a new language or dance moves. Participants won’t learn new dance steps in the class, but will learn a number of ways to help the brain continue to grow.

Terri Waldman, who runs a support group for those new to memory loss, said she touches on the need to learn new things in her own classes. She gives “homework” for class members to – gulp- go home and listen to a grandchildren’s music or play a video game with them.

There’s always laughter after that request, Waldman acknowledges. “However, the group smiles when they hear that trying something new and unfamiliar, they can help the brain make new connections which may slow down the progression of their cognitive decline.”

Brain Week is a full week of stimulating lectures and activities to help participants unravel the mysteries of the brain and learn more about various disorders and treatment options.

All of the Brain Week classes, including “brain aerobics,” will take place at the El Dorado Health Campus, 1400 N. Wilmot Road.

Here’s a list of upcoming events:

  • Monday, May 14, 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.; Our Normal Aging Brain: A Functional Overview
  • Tuesday, May 15, 9 a.m.- 10:30 a.m.;   How Chronic Disease Affects the Brain
  • Tuesday, May 15, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.;   Prevention of Stroke: It All Starts With You
  • Wednesday, May 16, 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.;  Cognitive Aging and Everyday Remembering
  • Wednesday, May 16, 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ;  Brain Aerobics: A Mental Fitness Workout For You
  • Thursday, May 17, 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.;  Brain Tumors: Diagnosis and Treatment Options
  • Thursday, May 17,  1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.;  Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, A Reversible Cause of Dementia
  • Friday, May 18, 11 a.m. – noon;  New to Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease
  •  Friday, May 18, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.; New to Parkinson’s Disease

For more information or to make a reservation, call 324-1960.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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