We’re all looking for ways to fight cognitive decline….especially as we age. But what’s the best strategy for improving mental and physical health when you’re older, and which findings are just hot air? Do mental-health apps like Brainage actually work out your mind in a way that slows cognitive decline? We’ve found some true strategies that work:
Coupon Hunting and Blogging Help You Live Longer
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The strategy for preventing mental decline that has the most evidence behind it is exercise. Here are three strategies you can employ with exercise to improve your mental health as well:
Three Ways That Physical Exercise Increases Mental Well-Being
Exercises triggers a chemical explosion in the brain. Well, not literally, otherwise janitors in the gym would get paid a lot more than they presently do. But exercise triggers the release of proteins and neurotransmitters in the brain that ultimately lead to improved emotional well-being and cognitive performance. Here are three key ways that exercise improves your mental well-being, and how you can get these benefits.
Exercise reduces age-related cognitive decline
Everyone knows that certain cognitive abilities deteriorate in our later years. Actually, mental performance peaks in our early 20s and slowly declines from there, but the process definitely speeds up in our twilight years. This might be because people tend to be less active when they are older. A study of over 6,000 people in 2001 found that people who were very active were 50% less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and are 63% less likely to experience dementia in their older years.
Exercise improves your ability to learn
Exercise increases levels of a protein called BDNF in the brain. BDNF, or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, facilitates the growth of brain cells and helps neurons form connections. Studies show that people’s performance in learning tasks is significantly enhanced when they are done directly after exercise, specifically high-intensity exercise.
Exercise boosts your emotional state
Exercise boosts mood in three ways. First, it provides an immediate boost by increasing levels of dopamine, endorphins, and other chemicals in the brain. Second, over time, regular exercise lifts your average mood level, even when you’re not exercising. Thirdly, it reduces the amount of stress hormones that are released in response to difficult situations, making you more resilient to stressful situations.
What type of exercise should you do?
Moderate exercise 2-3 times a week is enough for you to see benefits, but your general activity level is important too — don’t be sedentary the rest of the time, try to walk more and choose the stairs over the elevator. To improve learning, 5 10-20 second bursts of high-intensity exercise, like sprints, will trigger a big BDNF release. So do your learning straight after this.
Generally, the type of exercise isn’t important, as long as it gets your heart-rate up. Whatever you choose to do, the research in this area is clear — if you want to be mentally sharp, emotionally stable, and retain your faculties in your old age, train your body.