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Strength Train Your Brain

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5 Stay-Sharp Strategies

Along with working out and eating right, these healthy habits will help give you a mental edge.

Get Your ZZZs

Sleep deprivation temporarily reduces levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that's crucial for storing new information, says Gomez-Pinilla. "Snooze enough to feel rested -- about eight hours -- to keep your memory sharp," he advises.

Protect Your Head

"Always wear a helmet when you're cycling or skiing," says R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, director of Georgetown University's Memory Disorders Program in Washington, D.C.

Stop Multitasking

"Working on two things at once will split your concentration, making it harder to learn new things," says David A. Wolk, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and assistant director of the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia.

Do Mental Aerobics

Every day, challenge yourself to memorize new information, like the important facts in a news story or the names of people you've just met at a party, says Robin West, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Butt Out

"Smoking increases your risk of cerebrovascular disease, a condition in which your brain can't get all the blood it needs to function properly," Dr. Wolk explains. Just one more smart reason to kick the habit.

Sources: Dawn Jackson Blatner, a FITNESS advisory board member and author of The Flexitarian Diet; Dave Grotto, RD, a FITNESS advisory board member and author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life; Alice Merritt, MD, campus dietitian for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Kerry Neville, RD, a nutritionist in Kirkland, Washington; Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2009.


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hmjorgensen07 wrote:

wow I really like this article. I'm a college student and am currently under stress studying and finishing papers for school. This emphasizes why it's so important for me to fit in a workout! Thanks!

11/9/2009 11:43:52 AM Report Abuse
realitycheck0910 wrote:

I will use the gym at my school before I take tests. 30 min brisk walk before hand will work I hope.

11/6/2009 06:16:19 AM Report Abuse
metermaid47 wrote:

I thought it was a great article. Very informative and inspiring. I am one of those chair potatoes that was referred to in the story but want to change.

11/5/2009 10:29:05 PM Report Abuse

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