You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Six tips for keeping your brain fit

There are six essential components to a brain fitness program. Tailored to individual skills and needs, such a program can help anyone at any age, researchers say.

Cognitive training To work optimally, our brains need to be challenged, though it’s not as simple as doing crosswords or reading the newspaper. Really challenging your brain might mean taking up a new instrument or learning a second language. (Learning more than one language in childhood helps keep your brain strong decades later, but once you learn two, a third language provides fewer added benefits, research suggests.)

Continue reading below

Exercise Decades of scientific research support the idea that physical exercise — including aerobic and strength training — is essential to brain health at any age. Benefits are particularly strong for older people. It appears that just 15-20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise is enough to keep the brain healthy.

Healthy diet Research shows that a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and olive oil, and low in processed foods, is best for brain and body. Some data also suggest that eating fewer calories — just enough to maintain weight — is healthier than eating more.

Sleep People who don’t sleep enough dip into their cognitive reserves. As their brains become stressed with age or disease, they have fewer reserves and are more likely to suffer from lack of sleep. Older people with sleep problems should address them to avoid cognitive decline. On average, adults should sleep 7-8 hours per night, most research suggests.

Social interaction It’s crucial for both the head and the heart to get enough social interaction with family and friends to feel supported, research has shown, although it’s not yet clear how much is enough. Socializing via the Internet probably has some effect, but it’s possibly less essential than face-to-face interactions.

Stress control Some stress is essential — it challenges your brain. But too much stress can be distracting, reducing memory and overtaxing the body and brain. Meditation, deep breathing, visualization, biofeedback, and exercise have all been shown to reduce unhealthy stress.

SOURCE: Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.