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A plethora of scientific studies over the years shows that a healthy mix of both physical and intellectual activity as we age helps us maintain our overall well-being. We can preserve a healthy body and a healthy mind, delaying, mitigating or even eliminating the onsets of physical injuries, plus ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
As mentioned earlier, most of us are familiar with the idea that brain teasers can help keep us sharp, but there are other ways to stay mentally active, as well. This could mean breaking out of old routines and learning something new (acquiring a new hobby), or simply doing something old in a new way (brushing your teeth with the opposite hand). Engaging in lifelong learning through continued education can also be the final piece that tips the scale. On average, cognitively active seniors are 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity. Activities that stimulate and challenge us intellectually should never be underrated.
In all stages of life it’s important to maintain a certain level of physical activity – even, and especially, as seniors. The past decade has been rife with studies demonstrating how a certain level of physical activity benefits the brain substantially, primarily in the area of the hippocampus (the area of the brain involved in learning and memory).
You don’t need to run a marathon to have physical activity benefit the brain. A minimum of 30 minutes a day three days of a week is a good starting goal, and it doesn’t have to be done all at once. The important thing is to do something active on a regular basis, to make it a part of your day-to-day life.
Maintaining self-efficacy entails an ability to adapt to life’s challenges and to maintain a degree of independence in and control over one’s life. As we age we tend to be more resistant to change (generally speaking), when that is the exact opposite of how we should be. Life is change, and the more able we are to adapt, the more we’re able to focus on the important things in life. Sustaining social ties with friends and family is critical, and the more we can get out of the house and engage in social activities, the better we seem to do.
The bottom line is that the things we do every day can, and do, make a difference in how well our memory and learning abilities hold up as we age. Simple changes can make a big impact, and the more open to change we are , the bigger the impact is likely to be.