It’s a wise move to stay challenged and interested in the world around us in order to maintain an active and engaged mind. Let’s look at how we can help our brains, as well as our bodies, stay in top shape.
According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercising for 45 minutes several times a week can boost cognitive function in those over 50. The analysis of 36 studies shows that aerobic and resistance exercises such as swimming or cycling of at least moderate intensity can improve brain power.
Tai chi or walking sports (such as walking football or walking netball) can be great ways to keep active without the higher risk of falling or getting injured (as comes with regular team sports).
But what else can we do to protect our brains? Let’s first understand what the brain actually does. It manages all the unconscious and conscious functions, from regulating body temperature to controlling our balance, speech or movement. It’s also there to think, feel and sense. It’s these thinking skills that make us who we are and help us engage with the world around us. For example, it deals with decision-making, problem-solving, memory and language skills (among others). It’s these thinking skills we want to look after, particularly as we age.
According to Professor Alan Gow of Heriot-Watt University, the evidence for specific ‘brain training’ programmes remains inconclusive. The ‘use it or lose it’ idea may be why those products get so much attention, and although people get better at those brain training games, it’s still unclear whether those protect thinking skills in later life in any meaningful way. But it makes sense for our own sense of wellbeing that we continue to do hobbies and activities that we enjoy. Professor Alan’s advice says that if you do games and puzzles because you enjoy them, then certainly continue.