Have fun while engaging your brain with Wits Fitness classes

CHERI BURCHAM Family Life Educator

Have you ever tried to think of an animal name that starts with the letter “a” and goes all the way through the alphabet? How about coming up with the names of all the countries that don’t have the letter ‘o’ in them? Or list the countries that border Canada? Do you like trivia questions? Riddles? Find hidden photos?

If you do, congratulations, you are using your brain in a variety of ways that are very useful for cognition. Also, if you do, you’ll love the Wits Fitness Brain Health classes I’ve been facilitating in Coles and surrounding counties since 2015.

The purpose of these classes is to train participants to be healthy brain participants and to present cognitive or mental challenges to participants in a highly social environment. Participants are not tested for Alzheimer’s disease and we do not claim that memory will be restored or that the classes prevent the onset of dementia. Wits Fitness classes simply engage participants in interactive activities that challenge thinking and therefore help them stay mentally active – which can contribute to maintaining and improving brain function.

According to the Global Brain Health Council, “cognitively stimulating activities throughout life, such as participating in formal or self-initiated informal educational activities, continuing to participate in work experience, learning new skills, or engaging in leisure activities that are mentally challenging, provide brain health benefits of adults. Cognitively stimulating activities are mentally engaging activities or exercises that challenge a person’s ability to think. These activities can help you maintain your brain and cognitive abilities, such as memory, thinking, attention and reasoning skills, as you age.”

GCBH reports that cognitively stimulating activities should be novel, interesting, challenging, enjoyable, and promote social engagement. Participating in activities that involve social engagement, such as Wits Fitness classes, is particularly beneficial for brain health.

One thing I really love about Wits Fitness classes is the camaraderie I witness every time – and the laughter. These classes provide a great opportunity for participants to have fun while learning and trying new things. It’s all about the activity, not how well you do it!

Upcoming venues and dates include (excluding holidays):

  • Every first Monday of the month at LifeSpan Center of Coles County at 10am
  • Every first Monday of the month at the Shelby County Senior Center at 1 am
  • Every third Monday of the month at Eberhardt Village in Arthur at 3:00 p.m
  • Every fourth Monday of the month at Mid-Illinois Senior Services in Sullivan at 1 p.m
  • Every fourth Friday of the month at the Cumberland County Life Center at 10am

If the dates fall on a holiday, we usually move the class a week before or after. You can call to verify. There are no classes in July and December.

There is no cost to participate and you can attend at any time. I always say you’re never too young or too old to start training your brain, so join me in this fun and informative class. The University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunity in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please call 217-543-3755.

Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion and can often be the result of long-term stress.

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Cheri Bircham is a family life educator at U of I Extension. She can be reached at [email protected].

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