Even though we’re told to treat our brain like a muscle and exercise it, the brain isn’t actually a muscle. The exercise has nothing to do with physical exercise, though physical exercise does happen to be good for the brain too.
The brain is an organ with no actual muscle except for the muscle tissue in the middle layer of the arteries that carry blood to the brain.
While the brain may not be a muscle, as many believe, you still need to exercise it — and the rest of your body — to keep it healthy and functioning at its best.
The brain is an organ, and a very unusual and complex one at that. It plays a role in every one of our functions, controlling many organs, our thoughts, memory, speech, and movements.
At birth, the average brain weighs 1 pound and increases to approximately 3 pounds by adulthood. The majority of that weight — 85 percent of it — is the cerebrum, which is divided in two halves.
Your brain also contains cells, nerve fibers, arteries, and arterioles. It also contains fat and is the fattiest organ in the body — nearly 60 percent fat.
Exercising your brain using cognitive training tools, which are also called brain training games or brain exercises, may help improve your cognitive functioning.
Some studies have found that brain exercises improve memory, executive functions, and processing speeds, while others have shown little to no effect.
The impact of brain exercises may have something to do with age. Some studies have shown an improvement in cognitive abilities in young people and older adults.
Brain exercises may also be beneficial in slowing age-related changes in the brain and those associated with neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
A study published in 2017 showed that a brain-training intervention known as “speed-of-processing training” significantly reduced dementia risk.
If you’re looking to exercise your brain, you don’t necessarily need to resort to brain training games and apps.
There is evidence that regular stimulation that comes from engaging in artistic activities such as painting and sewing, listening to music, and even socializing have been shown to improve and preserve cognitive function.
Physical exercise has also been proven to improve cognitive functioning, mood, and well-being.
Your brain is made up of different parts that all work together. Let’s take a look at the different parts of the brain and what they do.
The cerebrum is located at the front and is the largest part of the brain. It’s divided in two hemispheres, or halves, that are separated by a groove called the interhemispheric fissure.
Each hemisphere is divided into four regions, which are called lobes. Each lobe is responsible for different functions, such as:
- sensory processing
- voluntary movement
The cerebellum is located in the back of your brain. It helps with the coordination and movement related to motor skills, especially involving the hands and feet. It also helps maintain posture, balance, and equilibrium.
This is located at the base of your brain and connects your brain to your spinal cord. It consists of the pons, midbrain, and medulla oblongata. The brain stem helps control your involuntary actions, including:
- blood circulation
- eye movement
This is located at the base of your brain. It is made up of the hypothalamus, thalamus, and epithalamus.
The hypothalamus balances your bodily functions, such as your sleep-wake cycle, appetite, body temperature, and release of hormones.
The thalamus relays signals into the brain and is involved in sleep regulation, consciousness, and memory.
The epithalamus provides a connection between parts of your brain and your limbic system, which plays a role in long-term memory, emotion, and behavior.
The pituitary gland is a tiny gland attached to your hypothalamus. It controls the activity of all of your other hormone-secreting glands, such as the adrenal glands and thyroid.
This gland is involved in a number of functions, including:
- breast milk production
- skin pigmentation
Your brain may not be a muscle, but working it and your actual muscles can keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best.
You give your brain a workout every time you engage in activities that you probably already enjoy, like listening to music, working on puzzles, and reading.
Socializing, sports and exercise, and going to school or work can also boost your brain.