Remembering old things and learning new things can become a challenge as we age. However, a growing body of scientific and clinical evidence shows that reasonable physical and mental activity creates new brain cells, improves cognitive functioning, and may forestall the onset of dementia. Frank Marxer, M.D., a geriatric specialist at Piedmont, shares the following tips to help prevent cognitive decline.
How to boost brain function
1. Physical activity. Dr. Marxer recommends engaging in moderate physical activity, equivalent to brisk walking, 150 minutes each week (that’s just 30 minutes five days a week). Your workout can even be divided into smaller chunks that are convenient and enjoyable (e.g., two 15-minute walks a day). Staying active has not only been documented to improve memory and overall brain function, it also prevents and improves depression.
“Given the availability of modern exercise equipment and assistive mobility devices, even elders can keep physically active,” says Dr. Marxer. “A recumbent exercise bike, for example, is an excellent device to use for aerobic activity with minimal stress on arthritic joints and no risk for falling. The older you are, the more important physical activity becomes.”
2. Problem-solving. Engaging in problem-solving games and activities is a great way to keep the wheels spinning. Challenging your brain with mental exercises is believed to stimulate brain cells and engage communication among them. Try crossword puzzles, Sudoku and other brain games to engage your mind.
Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active, but as you age and go into retirement, it is crucial to keep your mind engaged by pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, volunteering and/or staying connected with friends and family.
“When you incorporate exercise into your lifestyle at a younger age, it is easier to maintain this practice as you get older. Being physically and mentally active is a good lifelong health habit with undeniable health benefits as we age,” says Dr. Marxer.
Learn more ways to care for your mind and body.