Facts for Families

Facts for Families

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Make Brain Health a Priority in 2018

By Cheri Burcham, Family Life Educator

When someone asks you to think about health, wellness and fitness, you usually think about physical health, exercise or nutrition. As people age, they often concentrate on improving and maintaining their physical health, when they should also be working on their cognitive or brain health. Research points to six healthy brain contributors that focus on lifestyle rather than genetics. Those contributors include: getting enough good, quality sleep; eating a heart healthy diet; exercising regularly; lowering stress levels; keeping solid social connections and support; and, challenging your brain daily. These contributors can help maintain brain health and delay cognitive decline as we get older.

You are never too young or old too start practicing brain "fitness." We need to challenge our brains with many different activities. It is essential to reach beyond what is comfortable and try new exercises and activities that are interesting, varied and make us think a little more. For the past two years, I have been facilitating Wits Fitness Brain Training classes each month in four different locations. These classes not only challenge participants with a variety of activities that encourage concentration and thought – but they also provide a few of the other contributors just mentioned. Social connections are being strengthened since the participants claim to look forward to coming to the classes and enjoy the company of the others in attendance. Also, judging by the laughter coming from the groups, it doesn't take long to tell that participants are lowering those stress levels! As for the mental challenge – as I tell my classes – it's not about getting the answers right, but all about the process of getting the answers.

Do you have to take a class to practice brain fitness? No. Will you be more likely to practice brain exercises while having a good time with others if you take a class? Yes! So if you would like to attend a Wits Fitness class, here is the schedule:

· LifeSpan Center of Coles County – First Monday of month at 10:00 AM

· Shelby County Senior Center – First Monday of month at 1:00 PM

· Sullivan Senior Center – Fourth Monday of month at 1:00 PM

· LifeCenter of Cumberland County – Fourth Friday of month at 10:30 AM

· NEW!! Starting February: Arthur Extension Office – Third Monday of month at 10:00 AM

There are no fees or pre-registration to attend. Start the New Year right by grabbing a friend and coming to a class. So what are you waiting for? Start working out your brain right away!

For more information on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Cheri Burcham at University of Illinois Extension at 217-543-3755 or at cburcham@illinois.edu For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/

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