Activities that can stave off brain ageing
Running and lifting weights might be a crucial step in helping your body delay the effects of ageing, but those exercises may be only part of the story.
A University of Georgia researcher found that the type of activity you choose may also have an effect on your brain’s response to ageing - and, according to the data reviewed, may even help improve your cognitive function.
The study researched more than 70 reviews of previous studies comparing the benefits of exercise alone with the benefits of exercise plus some type of cognitive component. They found more improvement among participants when exercise was paired with some type of skill than with exercise alone.
“The people that were in training programs that were more complex performed better on tests of executive function and memory,” compared with tests that only involved exercise, co-author Philip Tomporowski said.
This means that an activity that requires some sort of extra thought or skill while you’re doing it - for example, choreographed dancing, running through an obstacle course, mountain biking or even low-impact activities, such as juggling - can be beneficial not only in that they get you moving, but they also help improve your brain function.
“People navigate a complex world in those activities, and it’s the navigation of your body as you move that we are hypothesizing, that’s influencing how people process information, problem solve and remember things,” he added. “The fundamental factor is the amount of mental engagement that’s in the task.”
This may be an important factor to consider as we age. There’s mounting evidence that our brain slows as we get older, along with declines in muscle and bone health. But if there was a possibility that the activities we choose as we age could help stave off those effects, it may cause some to re-evaluate their exercise routine.
What exercise do you currently do? Does it have a mental component? Are you more likely to include exercise with a mental component now?