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Tips to Work Out Your Brain This Winter

There's nothing like the doldrums of winter to make you feel lazy - both physically and mentally. Health experts will tell you that it's important to get your daily exercise, even as the days grow colder and the nights longer. But it's just as important to remember to work out your brain - as the mind-body connection goes both ways.

Here are some tips for maintaining mental fitness in the classroom this winter.

- Keep your brain sharp with word games and puzzles.

Every time you solve a crossword puzzle, put that last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, or scratch in that last number on a sudoku, it's like your brain just finished a set of curls. Playing games that test your mental acuity keeps the synapses firing, keeping your mind sharp. Try a combination of analog and digital word games and puzzles. Analog puzzles like crosswords and sudoku keep students grounded while iPhone or computer games keep them entertained. There's nothing like a complex puzzle game, as it triggers the brain's reward center when you solve each step. It's gratifying and nearly impossible to put down. It's one time where addiction is ok.

- Don't forget about that mind-body connection

Of course we all know that mental health can improve physical health. The brain is the control center for the entire body, so a healthy mind can mean a healthier everything else. But it also works the other way. How does your brain feel without an adequate amount of sleep? Doesn't your brain feel better after exercise? It's important to continue to physically exercise during the winter months, as it helps the brain as well as the body. Physical activity increase blood flow to the brain, which helps it to better function. For better mental fitness, make sure to incorporate at least 30 minutes of play, dance, sports, or other physical activity.

- Your brain is what it eats

Sure, food is your body's fuel - but it's also your brain's fuel. Mental health depends on a good diet. Vitamins B, E, and K are known to improve brain function. When your kids snack, make sure they're snacking on healthy foods like nuts, berries, or broccoli. And for energy, stick to whole grains "Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy - in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Achieve this by choosing whole grains with a low-GI, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for 'brown' wholegrain cereals, granary bread, rice and pasta," says the BBC's GoodFood blog.

- Resources for free puzzles and word games

Here are some great online sources of brain-strengthening games:

Scrabble - the classic word game that develops vocabulary and strategy

Braingle - Thousands of puzzles, word games, logic problems and more. Kids could spend hours training their brains on this site.

Addicting Games - a free source of games, many of them puzzle and strategy. Just make sure the kids don't click over and spend all their time killing zombies.

Crossword Puzzles - a seemingly endless supply of crossword puzzles, either playable online or printable. Nothing teases a brain like a good crossword.

Your brain is kind of like any muscle in your body. Well, a little more complex, but it still needs exercise. Keeping your mind sharp is easy. All it takes is a little bit of work - most of which is fun anyway. Read, do puzzles, play games - who doesn't love that prescription?

Guest writer: Larry Mager - Larry is passionate about the study of how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. He believes in regular exercise of the brain as a means to do just that. Give yours a workout with some fun, brain-stimulating games.



Internet4classrooms is a collaborative effort by Susan Brooks and Bill Byles.




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