2021 Brain Healthy Holiday Challenge

Research suggests that there are things you can do as you age to help maintain memory and thinking (and many of them will also help to keep your body healthy, too). These healthy habits have been formed into what's called the "8 Pillars of Brain Health."


During the Brain Healthy Holiday Challenge, we'll focus on one of the 8 Pillars of Brain Health each week from the beginning of November through the end of the year. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see the tips, or check in each week right here for the latest addition.

Incorporate these new insights, tips and resources into your life each week and you'll form new habits for a healthier brain and body by the new year! Keep scrolling to get started...


Interested in changing to a healthier lifestyle?

Join the U.S. POINTER Study




Week 1: Stay Active (image of red sneakers with pine branches)


The first pillar of brain health we'll focus on is physical activity. 


Here's how to start adding more physical activity into your life

  • Regular exercise has been shown to support healthy brain function and memory.
  • Get started by scheduling time to do physical activities you enjoy, whether it be walking, running, biking, an exercise class with friends, some "me time" alone at the gym, a virtual yoga session at home, or any other activity that gets your blood pumping.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of a moderate-to-strenuous activity each week, in sessions of at least 10 minutes each.
  • If you're starting from 0 and 150 minutes feels like a lot, start with half that – 75 minutes – and add 10 or 20 minutes each week until you reach 150 (or more).


Here's how to sneak more movement into every day

  • Wherever you go, park in the farthest parking spot so you can get some steps in.
  • If you work at a desk all day, use a standing desk or find a way to raise your computer up to standing level, and stand while working at periods throughout the day.
  • Set your alarm clock just a half hour earlier and get in a 20 to 30 minute walk first thing (this can be great for improving your mood and productivity throughout the day, too!)
  • If you're able to eat at your desk while working, use your lunch break to get in a 20 or 30 minute walk (the same benefit as the morning walk applies here - you'll likely return more refreshed and productive for the afternoon.)
  • Turn social time into exercise time. Next time you're making plans to meet up with a friend, suggest you meet at the gym or for a walk instead of sitting down to coffee or a meal, and you'll both benefit. Better yet, make it a regular date.
  • Get in a workout while watching TV! If you've got can't-miss shows, use that time to multipurpose a mini workout in the mix as well. There are even workout routines developed specifically for doing in front of the TV - check out this one from Verywell.


Music is one great way to help make you MOVE

Exercising is easier when you've got great music to motivate you. So we've put together a playlist of some of our Memory and Aging Program staff favorites – check out our MOVE playlist on Spotify, and enjoy it for free!


Want support in adding physical activity to your life? Consider joining the US POINTER Study, which offers local group sessions focused on exercise, nutrition and brain health. 




brain healthy holiday challenge - eat well


The second pillar of brain health is to eat well. 


Eat for better brain health (and a healthier body, too) with the MIND Diet.

Foods that are good for your heart such as, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats, and fish, are also good for your brain. The MIND diet is specifically designed to support brain health. Try incorporating it into your everyday dishes to start eating well for brain health.

Here are some resources and recipes to help you get started:




brain healthy holiday challenge - sleep well



The third pillar of brain health is to sleep well.


Following these tips for better sleep may improve your brain health.

Whether or not you get adequate sleep can have long-term effects on your brain health. Research has found that during sleep the brain clears amyloid, a key protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Make sure you get 7 to 8 hours every night.
Timing is everything.
  • For restful sleep, go to bed at the same time each night and limit napping during the day. If you must nap, do so before 3 pm and for no more than an hour.

Set the stage.
  • The right environment can help you sleep better. The room should be dark and cool. Your bed should be comfortable, with warm blankets. It should be quiet, or if it helps you, you can use a fan or an app to provide white noise.

Habits for healthy sleep.
  • To set yourself up for a good night's sleep, avoid alcohol and stimulants like coffee for 4 to 6 hours before bed, and electronic devices for at least 1 hour before settling down to sleep. Try incorporating soothing habits like a warm bath or stretching just before bed to signal your body it's time to sleep.


brain healthy holiday challenge - exercise brain



The fourth pillar of brain health is to exercise your brain.


This week we'll focus on the fourth Pillar of Brain Health, staying mentally stimulated. 🧠 Here's some insight on how the "use it or lose it" concept applies to brain health, from MAP Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dominique Popescu, PhD:

"In the research world, we talk about the role of cognitive stimulation in maintaining brain health. So, what does that mean?

Basically, it’s the idea of 'use it or lose it.' As we age, people tend to learn fewer and fewer new things and engage in fewer new activities – and maybe even just fewer activities overall.

But the more you continue to learn, adapt and grow, the more 'plastic' or 'in shape' your brain remains. So it really comes down to finding ways to remain engaged and empowering yourself to continue to interact with the world and your environment in different ways."



Switch It Up

  • Doing new things – or even the same things differently – can help to keep your brain nimble and quick. One simple way to do this every day? Use your non-dominant hand more often!

Read & Learn New Things

Reading is an excellent way to keep your brain healthy, and so is learning new things. Why not combine the two? You can check out e-books, magazines and more on virtually any topic for free on these websites:


      • The Digital Public Library of America: https://dp.la
      • Amazon Prime Reading (Amazon Prime membership required): amazon.com/primereading

      • Check your local library's website – most offer online e-books that you can check out with your library card.

Try Cognitive Training Games




  • learning or doing something new
  • connecting with others

  • getting in some physical activity

  • It also offers the satisfaction of helping others as well, of course! Reach out to a local cause you care about and see how you can help, or visit volunteermatch.org to find opportunities near you.


If you're 40+ with normal memory or mild memory loss, you can help in the fight against Alzheimer's. Here's how: butler.org/ALZregistry 


Explore More from The Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital


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