If you are already moving — swimming, jogging, dancing or anything else that has the potential for developing into an aerobic activity — keep it up! Some interesting studies give No. 1 "brain sharpener" status to aerobic exercise. Professor Donald Stuss, Ph.D., of the Ontario Brain Institute says, "The best advice I can give to keep your brain healthy and young is aerobic exercise." Continuous research is focused on the exercise and brain connection, which is no surprise given current studies that share some of the direct and indirect memory benefits of daily aerobic exercise: Exercise alters the brain in a way that offers protection to our memory and learning skills.
Our brains actually begin slowing down around age 30, and it was once believed that when we lost those brain cells, they were forever gone. The latest research tells us that is not true. We now know that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, stimulates the growth of new brain cells and increases the connections between brain cells. It also increases heart rate, which means more oxygen is being pumped to the brain.
Exercise is as good for your brain as it is for the rest of your body.
There are other ways to combat aging as well. Among them:
Create change: Occasionally, make small changes to the things you are continually doing the same way. If you always walk around the block in the same direction, try walking the opposite way. If you have an exercise routine, mix it up.
Socialize: Isolation kills slowly. You needn't be a social butterfly, however. Just 10 minutes of social interaction stimulates brain cells, including cells in the memory areas of the brain.
Get mental stimulation: Keep learning and introducing new activities. Step out of the box and challenge yourself. Include any mentally stimulating activity that you might enjoy and that requires you to focus on what you are doing. For me, it's taking piano lessons as a true beginner.
Eat well: Include color in your menu. Colorful fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidants that help fight the free radicals that attack the neurons in our brains.
Manage stress: Long-term stress produces the stress hormone cortisol, which has been known to cause premature brain aging. Exercise and relaxation techniques help to protect your brain from the debilitating effects of stress.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.