Good for Your Heart? Good for Your Brain!

Stay Sharp Throughout Your Whole Lifetime

Physical fitness is a sound investment for any stage of life. It’s good for your heart. So, it’s no surprise research shows it’s good for your brain, too!

Recent studies in anthropology link both physical activity and the need for social interaction to larger brains for humans. It seems the need to endure physical demands of hunting and to plan effective hunt strategies helped mold the structure of our brains.

Scientific support for the link between physical activity and brain health, from childhood to old age, is growing. Just as regular exercise helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, it also can help reduce the risk of age-related decline in memory, language skills, thinking, and judgment.

Research is underway to determine whether exercise can help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Observational studies have linked physical activity, normal blood pressure and diabetes control with changes in risk. Even if research does not find direct evidence that exercise slows or prevents dementia, investing in exercise will still pay off. Just think of the improvement you will make in your overall health–how that translates into reduced costs for health care. Think, too, of how much more fun life can be!

Add problem-solving to exercise for a personal body and brain workout some call the Golden Duo. Test results for people who regularly play memory games and do aerobic exercise, like walking, show they earn higher scores in cognitive performance. The key is regular workouts.

Where do you start? Check with your doctor about which physical activities are appropriate for you. Then, check with yourself to see what learning or problem-solving activities you enjoy. Think of it as mind aerobics. Look for ways to exercise both your body and brain, like tai chi, dance, photography hikes, zoo walks, or nature walks.

For brain workouts, try activities that require creativity, strategy or planning. Learn something new. Have you ever wanted to play a musical instrument, make pottery, write poetry or knit? What about solving puzzles, brain teasers or mysteries? Would you like to paint, design a garden or play computer games?

Be active with others. Do volunteer work or join a group. Enjoy discussions about books, movies, hobbies or current events. When we continue to interact with people and build relationships, we are building brain fitness, too!

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