Is your brain a muscle that needs to be trained and maintained?
You exercise your body, right? Perhaps you train your quads in the gym, push your abs at Barry’s bootcamp or feel your gluteus maximus popping in a kettle bell class. Or maybe walking is your thing. However you choose to train your body’s muscles you undoubtedly do it because it’s good for you and/or it feels good too.
Why then, does training our brain take a back seat even though it’s driving us through life? It turns out that it’s pretty vital to train your brain’s “muscles” just as often (if not more) than you do your body. Don’t worry, there’s still time!
Although your brain isn’t a true “muscle,” its complex cellular structure and grey and white matter do function in a similar way to “training” your body’s muscles.
So, what actually is the brain?
The brain is an amazing thing by which neuroscientists are spellbound; investing so much time and money discovering what lies within all of the squidgy squelchy goodness. Your brain contains A LOT more than just ‘grey and white matter,’ it contains arteries, arterioles, cells and nerve fibers. Not to mention that it’s made up of around 60%. fat. Fat = good!
Is the brain a muscle then?
First, let’s show you Medicine Net’s definition of muscles, which we quite like:
“Muscle: Muscle is the tissue of the body which primarily functions as a source of power. There are three types of muscle in the body:
1. Muscle which is responsible for moving extremities and external areas of the body is called “skeletal muscle.”
2. Heart muscle is called “cardiac muscle.”
3. Muscle that is in the walls of arteries and bowel is called “smooth muscle.“Medicine Net
All muscles are attached to bones by tendons, which help them to move. They work in pairs. If a muscle contracts, it shrinks in length and pulls the bone it is connected to. When a muscle is relaxed it returns back to its normal state. One muscle in the pairing is used for each part of the process.
The brain is more complex than a muscle. In fact its cell structure is way beyond that of a muscle. The brain isn’t a muscle as it doesn’t contract or relax and it keeps itself ‘supported’ via a constant supply of fluid, without the reliance on any muscular mass. Having said that, the arteries and arterioles that bring blood to the brain are formed of some muscle. The brain is a muscle in the sense of its potential to be ‘trained and maintained.’
The two keywords here are “mental stimulation.”
In the same way your body adapts and responds to exercise and stimulation, your brain may also be responsive to similar mental stimulation and “muscle building” potential when it comes to things like memory, problem solving and Neuroplasticity.
Let’s take a closer look and focus on the 3 quick-win ways you can help mentally stimulate and potentially develop your brain’s “muscle building” ability:
1. Argue It Out
Engaging in debates is such a great way to get your brain “muscles” firing. A debating environment is full of conversation, new information and thinking on your feet.
You’ll be exercising your brain’s ability to think fast, listen intently and absorb and process as much info as possible in a short amount of time.
Whether you’re debating what nutrition is best for cognitive brain function or deciding if Fleetwood Mac is complete without Lindsey Buckingham; you’ll be exercising that Neuroplasticity left, right and centre (lobe-a-licious!).
2. Learn About Brain Specimens
Why brain specimens? Hmmm, okay that’s definitely what we’re into, maybe you’re not? The point is, is that you can choose to learn about something you’ve never researched before and unearth some cool stuff.
Why does learning flex your brain’s “muscles?” Just as with exercising, if you stop using your brain the “muscles” may weaken and in extreme cases potentially fizzle out altogether.
By learning something new and filling your mind with interesting information, you’ll be training and maybe enhancing your life-long learning ability.
A few new topics to get you started:
– Find out the perfect sleeping routine for your brain
– Research the story behind a brand you love
– Find out 3 facts about a sport you’ve never watched before like chess-boxing, extreme ironing or toe wrestling (yes, this is the world we live in people)
– Discover which nutrition your body and brain thrives on
– Read up on hydroponics
3. Tune Into Some Tuuunes
The term “feel-good music” has never been so relevant as right now. Studies have shown that tuning into your favourite tunes may increase healing potential for those with an injury and potentially boost your mood whilst “exercising” your brain.
Don’t have a favourite song? Why not dip into one of these hot tracks we’re bopping our brains to at the mo:
– Camelphat – Be Someone
– George Ezra – Pretty Shining People
– America – Ventura Highway
– The Chainsmokers – Hope
– Neil young – Heart of Gold
There are numerous ways to maximise your brain health and “exercise” your mind.
When it comes to answering the question “Is the brain a muscle?” It’s clear to see that the brain’s “muscles” work in similar ways to that of the body’s muscles.
It’s useful to remember the following when thinking of your brain:
Use it or lose it, move it to improve it, keep learning to keep it churning, tune in and your brain’ll win. And so forth…
When training your brain it’s so, so important to get your nutrition spot on, plus nailing the quality of your sleep and exercising your body regularly in the right way.
If you do one without the other, the benefits will most likely be minimal. Do them all and you’ll potentially reap some incredible game-changing rewards for your memory, problem solving skills and attention span, now and in the years to come.
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All information featured in Peak – Brain Training articles are provided for informational purposes only and are not substitutes for medical or physician advice.