Go for the high score Playing video games requires lots of attention and improves your ability to respond quickly to visual cues that pays off in daily activities that demand concentration such as driving. Low-tech games such as cards, chess and crossword puzzles also exercise your mind, says psychologist Ingrid Friesen, director of the Victoria Memory Clinic in British Columbia. Because playing a game requires you to focus and develop strategies, it may also help create and strengthen brain connections.
Eat berries Blueberries, strawberries and cranberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, which are linked to improved co-ordination and memory. Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey recommend two servings of berries (one cup/250 mL) or the equivalent amount of cranberry juice every day.
Stroll around a museum Or, take a night course. Intellectually stimulating leisure activities improve vocabulary, short-term memory and analytical reasoning, say British researchers. If you hang out with a buddy while you’re feeding your brain, even better. Social butterflies have sharper minds later in life because they use a range of mental skills, such as recalling current events and initiating topics, while engaging in conversation, says Friesen.
Brew a pot of tea Green and black teas contain antioxidant polyphenols, which may protect your brain from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, according to preliminary studies.
Please yourself Sex and masturbation release mood-lifting endorphins, says U.S. sexuality researcher Beverly Whipple. Research has also shown that couples who have sex at least three times a week often look younger than those who don’t.
Jump-start your day Jumping rope puts a bloom in your cheeks and, because it’s a weight-bearing exercise, helps build bone density. Renata Anderson, a personal trainer and lifestyle coach in Bowmanville, Ont., suggests skipping in intervals three times a week. Skip for one minute and walk in place the next, alternating for a total of 10 minutes. Extend your skipping workout to 20 minutes by adding one minute each week or as you see fit.
Stay sleek with whole grains Women who choose high-fibre breads and cereals may gain fewer pounds as they age. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital study found that women who ate whole grains were 50 per cent less likely to become obese than those who regularly ate refined grains such as white bread. Whole grains slow the release of sugar into the blood, positively affecting calorie burning and fat storage. Knowing that you’re fighting diabetes and heart disease at the same time will put a spring in your step, too.
Slather on SPF 30 sunblock (Unless you want your face to match your alligator handbag.) Sun overexposure causes premature wrinkling because it breaks down the elasticity of your skin, according to cosmetic dermatologist Ala Lozinski of Stoney Creek, Ont. Seek the shade between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and apply a sunscreen that contains at least two per cent titanium dioxide or micronized zinc oxide to protect against skin-damaging UVA and UVB rays.
Limber up Regular stretching promotes flexible joints and circulation, which is especially important if you spend most days glued to your desk. Rise and shine with this two-minute full-body stretch: put your right arm across your chest and gently pull it closer with your left hand. Hold for five seconds, then switch arms. Next, sit on a chair and turn your torso to the right as far as you can before slowly letting go and switching to the left. Finish by lying on your back. With your toes pointed, rotate your feet and make circles the size of volleyballs in the air. Try 20 in each direction.
Put your best face forward Clenching your jaw, frowning and furrowing your brow add wrinkles, says physiotherapist Jenny Bekeschus, director of the Chestnut Park Health Centre in Toronto. Fight back: when you notice your teeth are clenched, drop your jaw, open your mouth slightly and massage just above your jawbone. Then tighten your neck muscles and clench your jaw tight for three seconds. Relax your facial muscles and then release the tension in your neck by smiling widely or grimacing. Finally, squeeze your eyes shut for a few seconds to relax your eye muscles. Take in a deep breath and gently let it out.
Munch on a peach Fruit contains carbohydrates that fuel workouts and replenish energy, says Pam Lynch, a sports nutritionist and registered dietitian in Halifax. Fruits such as peaches, apples and oranges also deliver antioxidants. Researchers in New Zealand believe increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, from four to eight servings a day, boosts antioxidants which are associated with a lowered risk of cancer.
Get off the couch A physically active life recharges you and may lengthen your life, says California exercise physiologist Jonathan Myers. Moving from a sedentary lifestyle into a moderately active one with 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, such as cycling or jogging every day, may end up adding several years to your life.
De-stress Meditation restores energy, re-lieves muscle tension and lowers the stress hormone cortisol, says Lori Myles, a yoga and meditation instructor at The Yoga Studio in Toronto. Calm yourself by trying this exercise in bed or at your desk: count each breath (in and out) starting from 10 backwards to one. Whenever your mind wanders, start counting down again from 10.
Perfect your posture Hunching drains your energy because you can’t breathe deeply enough to draw oxygen into your blood and muscles. It also contributes to neck, back and shoulder pain and head-aches. To straighten your spine and achieve better posture, place your back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your head and shoulders back, tucking in your tummy, and hold for five seconds.
Drop and give us 10 Between the ages of 30 and 80, we lose one per cent of our muscle mass a year. Strength-training exercises, such as pushups and weightlifting, ensure you don’t lose even more, says Anderson. A dozen pushups at least twice a week builds lean muscle, burns calories and boosts energy. Keep your knees bent and hands wider than your shoulders, touching your chest to the floor for maximum benefit.