Exercising Your Brain As You Age

By John M Grohol PsyD

According to a news article we published today, simple everyday activities are all we need to keep our minds sharp as we age, mixed in with a healthy dose of daily physical exercise.

The study measured over 4,000 participants’ brain and cognitive functioning over a 6 year period to arrive at these results. Boiled down to the basics, the researchers found the following activities help our brains remain sharp as we age:

  • Mental activities, like reading or doing a crossword puzzle
  • Physical exercise, generally the more the better (but even some, such as simply walking for 30 minutes per day, is better than nothing)
  • Remaining socially engage with your friends or family
  • Maintaining a positive attitude throughout life
  • Learning new activities, hobbies or anything that requires concentration and skill-building

Yes, you could always buy one of those fancy brain games for your iPhone or computer if you want. But this study shows that you will gain benefit from simply picking up a book, reading magazines or newspapers, and doing the kinds of pencil and paper puzzles that have been available for free for decades.

Just as importantly, it helps to remain engaged in all parts of your life. As we age, especially as some of our friends begin to pass away, it’s easy to become socially isolated and start becoming a little depressed or sad about life. But such isolation hurts us, not just emotionally, but also physically. Remaining in touch with your friends and doing activities you all enjoy together helps your body, mind and soul keep healthy.

Physical exercise keeps us mentally fit as well. There’s a robust set of research demonstrating the link between people who do some exercise nearly every day, versus those who remain physically inactive. You don’t have to run a marathon to keep up your physical activity. You just need to do something physical at least 3 or 4 times a week. As mentioned earlier, a simple walk around your neighborhood may suffice for some.

We haven’t yet learned how to stop the aging process, much less reverse it. But keeping tips like this in mind may help you stay mentally fit while others start to fade. And although little research has been done on middle-aged and younger adults, there’s little harm in putting these kinds of activities in our every day practice.

Read the full article: Staying Sharp While Aging

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