Cognitive Fitness: A New Trend to Recognize and Incorporate in Your Wellness Program
By Kristi Dickinson Director of Spa & Wellness, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa | March 22, 2020
Mental wellness is a new concept generating quite a buzz. It is distinct from mental health, focusing both on preventing mental and emotional disorders and maximizing cognitive potential. More than 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment and the number is rising.
In the coming years we will see an increased need for services addressing the "mind" aspect of wellbeing. The demand for which is being driven by our modern high-stress, low human connection society.
There is a growing body of research in evidence-based lifestyle modifications such as exercise, nutrition, community and challenging activities that have the potential to improve cognitive "fitness". These interventions expand the brain in structure (i.e. the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex) and at a cellular level (i.e. promoting neuron growth, creating new synapses and boosting the production of proteins essential for memory).
Wellness spas are well positioned to innovate and offer more variety and creativity in reaching guests interested in fine-tuning their cognitive abilities. These powerful interventions are useful not only for improving general health but also for enhancing brain chemistry. We can show guests how to improve longevity and decelerate mental aging, tapping into the brain's amazing capacity for positive change.
A wonderful book called "Boost Your Brain " by Majid Fotuhi, M.D. Ph.D talks about The Core Four ways to grow your brain: Build synapses, bolster the brain's highways, nourish and grow blood vessels, and promote the development of neurons. Fotuhi discusses how a bigger brain is critical to peak mental fitness in three main ways: Memory, Clarity and Creativity.
Cognitive stimulation helps the hippocampus (which plays a major role in learning and emotions) grow and increase levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a critical protein in the formation of long-term memory. A larger network of connectivity (synapses, neural highways, blood vessels and neurons) in the brain improves creativity and the ability to solve abstract problems in the cortex, the area of the brain where higher cognition takes place.