There are lots of steps you can take toward keeping your brain sharp as you age. No doubt you’ve heard plenty of tips, from doing puzzles and games to increasing your antioxidant intake.
One you may not have heard about so much: exercise.
Yet as a new review of the science in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows, regular exercise – even just once or twice a week – may help improve your cognitive (thinking) and memory skills.
The study looked at data from 39 previous studies on exercise and cognitive function in adults over 50. Those who exercised at moderate intensity for 45 to 60 minutes per session showed improved cognitive function. And it didn’t matter if they had already experienced some cognitive decline or not. The benefits were there.
In a variety of brain tests, they found evidence of aerobic exercise improving cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading, learning and reasoning, while muscle training – for example, using weights – had a significant effect on memory and the brain’s ability to plan and organise, the so-called executive functions.
Why should this be?
The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.
And really, the relationship between exercise and mental sharpness shouldn’t be surprising. After all, we’ve known for some time that exercise supports mental health, as well as physiological health. (It’s also important to your oral health, too, believe it or don’t!)
At any age, but perhaps especially as we age, it’s important that we be attentive to our whole selves – body, mind, and spirit. This holistic approach lets all three aspects of your being work in harmony, creating more opportunities to heal from within. Biological dentistry can be a key component of this unified approach.
As you consider how to incorporate more exercise into your life, here are 5 practical tips, simple and effective at any age:
Put it on the calendar. By making exercise a routine and putting the time hold on your calendar, you may be less inclined to skip it and find that other activities can wait.
Set goals. Start with a certain time or routine and challenge yourself to increase those goals every week for a month (or every month for 6 months, etc.).
Have fun! Consider inviting a friend or loved one on a walk or run. Grandchildren have also been known to cherish these memories with their grandparents.
Find support and accountability in (or out of) your circle. If this is a new activity for you and you don’t have a current support group, consider checking in with your local gym or running store for clubs that exist in your community.
Participate in the comfort of your own home. Don’t let the cost of a gym membership deter you from being active. There are plenty of good workout routines that don’t require a trainer or any equipment. You can easily search YouTube or Pinterest for lots of simple exercises and activities. “Workouts for over 50” results in hundreds of ideas just on Pinterest!).