By providing your email you consent to receiving updates to the Silver&Fit blog by email. Silver&Fit does not share or sell your email to any third-parties. You may unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the email.


Healthy Habits for a More Resilient Brain

Picture of American Specialty Health
By American Specialty Health on November 10, 2021
Healthy Habits for a More Resilient Brain

Engaging in healthy habits may have a bigger impact on your brain than you think. Learn how the following practices may improve your mental function and help keep your brain sharp.


Your brain goes through changes during your life just like every other part of your body. But you can help create a stronger and more resilient brain by adopting healthy habits into your everyday life. In fact, some healthy habits—like exercise and good sleep—may even help spark the growth of new brain cells.

Exercise is one of the all-around best things you can do for your body … and your mind. Not only does exercise help boost endorphins that make you feel great, but it can also help stimulate the growth of new brain cells.

There’s a protein in your brain that spurs the development of nerve cells and promotes good connections between brain cells. This protein is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). As you age, BDNF levels can drop. When that happens, some of the functions that BDNF helps with—things like learning and forming new memories—may be negatively affected.

However, you may have the ability to boost levels of BDNF, even as you age. Studies show that regular physical activity is the key. Research is ongoing. But one observation is that BDNF increases with exercise, especially exercise that is higher in intensity.

Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and can help reduce stress. These are all important factors for a healthy brain.

GettyImages-88295661_2Get enough sleep

Experts believe that sleep plays several key roles in brain function. When you sleep, your brain clears away waste and toxins that have built up over the course of the day. This may help your brain function better when you’re awake.

Sleep also seems to help with learning and memory. When you learn and form memories, your brain changes. New pathways are created. And your brain may go over those pathways when you sleep, making them stronger.

When you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your memory and your ability to think clearly. Lack of sleep and insomnia can also be linked to depression and anxiety.

But you can take steps to break this cycle of sleep deprivation. Start by creating healthy sleep habits to avoid troubled sleep.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Watch what you eat and drink a few hours before it's time to sleep. Caffeine and nicotine can make it hard to fall asleep. So can rich, spicy foods.
  • Take some time to wind down before you go to bed. Try not to watch TV in bed. Set aside your cell phone and other electronic devices before bed. The blue light from these devices can stimulate you.
  • Try some calming and relaxing activities before bed, like taking a warm bath or reading.

GettyImages-667595915_2Eating for brain health

Like the rest of your body, your brain gets energy from the foods you eat. But some foods are better for your brain than others. Research shows that eating certain foods can help support brain health. Eating foods like whole grains, berries, dark leafy-green veggies, and olive oil help contribute to a healthier brain. The vitamins and nutrients from these foods can help boost mental functions such as memory, mood, and concentration. And studies strongly suggest you may even be able to slow down cognitive decline by eating plenty of these foods.

GettyImages-649645536_2Mental stimulation

A key part of a resilient brain is the ability to think, learn, and remember. Research suggests that engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help you do just that and keep your brain sharp. Challenge your mind with crosswords or logic puzzles. Learn a new language or musical instrument. Take up a new hobby that you know little about. Or read interesting new books or articles. Whatever you decide, choose those that interest you most. And be sure to mix it up and keep it fun. When you’re having fun, you’re more likely to stick with an activity.

By doing things that challenge you to think, learn, and remember, you create opportunities to boost the function of your brain.

While there may be no known way to fully stop the effects of aging, adopting some of these healthy habits may help you keep your brain more resilient.



Not a Silver&Fit® member? Learn more about everything the program has to offer, including more helpful health living tips like this, here on our website.



This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program.



ACE Fitness. (2017). High-Intensity Interval Training: Why it works. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6361/high-intensity-interval-training-why-it-works/

Brooker, H., Wesnes, K. A., Ballard, C., Hampshire, A., Aarsland, D., Khan, Z., Stenton, R., Megalogeni, M., Corbett, A. (2019). The relationship between the frequency of number-puzzle use and baseline cognitive function in a large online sample of adults aged 50 and over. International Journal Geriatric Psychiatry. Jul;34(7), 932-940. doi:10.1002/gps.5085

Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Memory problems: What is normal aging and what is not. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11826-memory-problems-what-is-normal-aging-and-what-is-not

Fissler P, Küster OC, Laptinskaya D, Loy LS, von Arnim CAF, Kolassa IT. (2018). Jigsaw puzzling taps multiple cognitive abilities and is a potential protective factor for cognitive aging. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Oct 1;10, 299. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2018.00299

Gyorkos, A., Baker, M. H., Miutz, L. N., Lown, D. A., Jones, M. A., Houghton-Rahrig, L. D. (2019). Carbohydrate-restricted diet and exercise increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor and cognitive function: A randomized crossover trial. Cureus. Sep 9;11(9), e5604. doi:10.7759/cureus.5604

HelpGuide.org. (2021). How to improve your memory. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/how-to-improve-your-memory.htm

Jiménez-Maldonado, A., Rentería, I., García-Suárez, P.C., Moncada-Jiménez, J., Freire-Royes, L. F. (2018). The impact of high-intensity interval training on brain derived neurotrophic factor in brain: A mini-review. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Nov 14;12, 839. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00839

Ledreux, A., Håkansson, K., Carlsson, R., Kidane, M., Columbo, L., Terjestam, Y., Ryan, E., Tusch, E., Winblad, B., Daffner, K., Granholm, A. C., Mohammed, A. K. H. (2019) Differential effects of physical exercise, cognitive training, and mindfulness practice on serum BDNF levels in healthy older adults: A randomized controlled intervention study. Journal of Alzheimers Disease. 71(4), 1245-1261. doi:10.3233/JAD-190756

Medline Plus. (2020). BDNF gene. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/bdnf/

Miranda, M., Morici, J.F., Zanoni, M.B., Bekinschtein ,P. (2019). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor: A key molecule for memory in the healthy and the pathological brain. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. Aug 7; 13, 363. doi:10.3389/fncel.2019.00363

National Institute on Aging. (2020). Cognitive health and older adults. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults

Rahmani, M., Rahmani, F., Rezaei, N. (2020). The brain-derived neurotrophic factor: Missing link between sleep deprivation, insomnia, and depression. Neurochemical Research. Feb;45(2), 221-231. doi:10.1007/s11064-019-02914

Rentería, I., García-Suárez, P. C., Martínez-Corona, D. O., Moncada-Jiménez, J., Plaisance, E. P., JiméNez-Maldonado, A. (2020). Short-term high-intensity interval training increases systemic brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in healthy women. European Journal of Sport Science. May;20(4), 516-524. doi:10.1080/17461391.2019.1650120

Walsh, J. J., Tschakovsky, M.E. (2018). Exercise and circulating BDNF: Mechanisms of release and implications for the design of exercise interventions. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. Nov;43(11), 1095-1104. doi:10.1139/apnm-2018-0192


This article was written by Sharon Odegaard, edited by Jason Nielsen, and clinically reviewed by Jossue Ortiz, DC.


Return to Homepage