When writing health-related articles, whether they’re geared toward physical health or mental health, I’ll often come across information that makes me cringe. For example,w hen I read how unhealthy diet soft drinks were, it hit me where it hurt. I had a 2 liter a day diet soda addiction for over 10 years! That was a very, very hard one to give up.
I’m never happy to read about the negative effects other favorites (fried food, doughnuts, burgers..) have on the body either. Kind of depressing, truth be told.
However, there are other times when the news is so good I want to do a happy dance. Take, for example, when I read that coffee was considered a tool in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. This coffee fanatic pumped her fist in the air over that one. It’s recommended that you drink at least 3 cups to reap the benefits. Frankly, I’ve achieved that well before 10:00 each morning.
I was also glad to learn that walking is considered to be a very healthy activity for the body and mind. Walking is a great passion of mine, so the news almost made up for the loss of diet soda.
I recently had another reason to pump my fist. As you may know, I work entirely from home with my web publishing business. I’m on the computer almost as often as its logo. Some days it seems like I’m there longer. So, needless to say, I was overjoyed to read that computer use has a protective effect on the brain. What’s more, if computer use is combined with exercise of some sort (such as walking), the positive effects are even greater.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied 926 people in Minnesota between the ages of 70 and 93. They had the individuals fill out questionnaires which included questions about the kinds of physical activities they engaged in regularly. The participants were also asked about mentally stimulating activities, such as playing games, reading, play music, arts and crafts, and using the computer.
The researchers were particularly interested in computer use.
The study proved that both exercise and computer use each have protective effects on the brain – but the two together are even better!
“The aging of baby boomers is projected to lead to dramatic increases in the prevalence of dementia,” study author Yonas Geda said in a news release. “As frequent computer use has become increasingly common among all age groups, it is important to examine how it relates to aging and dementia. Our study further adds to this discussion.”
Keeping cognitively active seems to, somehow, protect the brain. Exercise, too, has been shown to reduce the risk for cognitive decline and even help reverse symptoms once they start.
The takeaway from this study is pretty obvious. In addition to eating a healthy diet, we should all strive to be physically active each day. What’s more, we should keep our brains active and challenged. Never let them remain idle and make certain you never allow them to become content with the knowledge they have today. If you want your mind to be strong and healthy 10 years from now, you have to make its health a priority each day.
- Eat plenty of brain food, including fruit, vegetables, coffee (yay!), and Omega 3s.
- Play brain games regularly.
- Read fiction. Have a great novel “going” at all times. Bonus points if it’s a novel with a large cast of characters. Agatha Christie books are pure gold for keeping your brain sharp.
- Read non-fiction. Read about different places, people, and events regularly. Open up a whole new world by learning about someone or someplace that you know absolutely nothing about.
- Be physically active. Walk each day, even if it’s just around the yard.
- Pick a topic that interests you and “Google” it. Find all the information you can on the subject and read until you’re practically an expert!
- Your brain needs to be challenged in different ways. Memorizing information is a wonderful mental workout, but it also needs a steady diet of problem solving. Good, old-fashioned workbooks (high school or college level) can help keep your mind sharp. The brain also wants exercise in creativity. This is an area most people overlook. Pick up a craft or hobby that allows you to be creative and flex your mental muscles in a whole new way. Build model airplanes, make jewelry, sew, knit, paint, make soap, draw, or pick up a coloring book and color! Don’t tell anyone, but that sounds like a lot of fun right about now.
The Mayo Clinic study was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Make each moment count double,