Take a deep breath, put on a smile, and while you’re at it, slip into those trainers! And when your work day is behind you, get ready to take a few things off… as Time Health features new study data for all of us hoping to retain sharp cognitive skills as we grow older.
If you’re middle-aged (or as I prefer to think of myself, “a woman of a certain age”), there’s plenty you can do to ratchet up the chances of a sparkling cognitive future.
Alexandra Sifferlin reports:
… a new study published in the journal Neurology found that people who weren’t as physically active in midlife had smaller brains than their peers 20 years later.
Using treadmill testing on 1500+ men and women in middle age and 20 years later, the Time article continues:
… brain scans revealed that people with a lower exercise capacity — defined as the amount of time people could exercise on the treadmill before their heart rate hit a certain threshold — in midlife were more likely to have smaller brains years later, compared with people who had high fitness levels in middle age.
Personally, I’ve always been gaga for great guys (and gals) with BIG BRAINS and small egos… (The opposite is decidedly unpleasant, don’t you think?) Those who are life-long learners have always been my cup of tea, both as friends and as partners.
Also on the cognitive health front, this 2015 Time Health article on Alzheimer’s patients notes the association of physical exercise and improved functioning in patients already diagnosed with dementia.
… In the first studies to look at physical activity among people already diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, moderate to high intensity workouts may not only slow down the biological symptoms of Alzheimer’s—but may lead to improvements in cognitive functions as well.
I find this to be encouraging, and a reminder for all of us in our forties, fifties, sixties and older, to take the time to engage in physical exercise whenever and wherever we can. It’s easy to make excuses (been there, done that, especially as an “older single mother”), but we needn’t be pursuing trekking, triathlons, or joining chi-chi clubs.
Whatever we can do, especially if it gets us out in the fresh air, improves our sense of well-being and helps reduce stress.
And we certainly are aware of what happens to our brains when stressed. Over time, the impacts can be seriously damaging, and not just to brain function.
Last but not least, this exciting #ICYMI — In Case You Missed It — as just this week Huffington Post published Sex Tied to Better Brain Power in Older Age. Citing a new study in England of 6,800+ men and women 50 – 89, and reporting on “a significant association between sexual activity and cognitive function in adults over 50,” the article explains:
… Men who were more sexually active showed higher scores on tests of memory skills and executive function — the mental processes involved in planning, solving problems and paying attention — whereas women who were more sexually active saw only a higher score in their memory skills…
Do keep in mind that association is not causality. An active sex life does not necessarily lead to superior cognitive function in older age. And, it’s possible that a zest for all that life has to offer, including the pleasures of intimate relationships, may come into play.
Still… speaking of play… this is one way to get your cardio!
Incidentally, as I come across articles of this sort — how to fight aging (tooth and nail), how to reduce the likelihood of cognitive and physical decline (in general) — I am reminded of the ways in which we are bombarded 24/7 with anti-aging messaging.
We all age, if we’re lucky. And with the increasing numbers of 50+ citizens, wouldn’t it be nice if we could dispense with the anti-aging attitude? Anyone care to join me in a little age rage over assumptions that we must all loathe each and every laugh line, and that we’re somehow diminished by the growing number of years we’ve been gaining wisdom on the planet?
Perhaps the better approach is more along these lines, as they appear in Why ‘Aging Gracefully’ Doesn’t Suit Me:
I find myself repeating the words of a friend who once said to me: We create the future every day. That doesn’t mean every day before 40, or every day a part of the body doesn’t ache, or every day we like our pallor, our waistlines, our energy level, our mood, our kids, our spouses, our status, or our lack of it.
I prefer living gracefully and better still — living ravenously, compassionately, honestly. I prefer admitting openly that I struggle with the emergence of an older woman in the mirror, even as I simultaneously see my youth in reflection, along with dreams dashed and dreams yet to embrace. I confess unabashedly that I’m unable to imagine my dotage any more than I could imagine myself at 50 when I was 20. I can only hope that in 30 years time that I will possess three decades of new stories to recount, poised to do so — with wit and vibrancy.
And on that note, I will step away from the keyboard during lunch, indulge in a bit of brisk exercise, contemplate my upcoming weekend plans, and make my day a good one.
How about you?
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