We all know to exercise our bodies to keep fit, but how often do you think about exercising your brain? And what type of exercise does it need anyway? What are the facts? What is the secret to mental agility?
Keeping mentally active will keep your brain in good shape. Getting older does not mean that you have to be forgetful!
Recent research into Alzheimer's disease found that people who were less active between the ages of 20 and 60 years are almost 4 times more likely to develop the disease. The brain, like the rest of the body, needs to be kept active to keep healthy.
You exercise your body to keep it in shape. Now it has been shown that exercising your brain can keep it in shape too.
That leaves us with the question of what to do to keep our brains active. The research discovered that how you spend your leisure time can affect the health of your brain.
Leisure activities can be divided into -
Passive activities, which include watching TV, participating in social activities, and listening to music.
Intellectual activities are reading, painting, playing a musical instrument, woodworking.
Physical activities, for example, gardening, playing sport, working out at the gym, walking, jogging.
The only 'activity' that the Alzheimer's patients had performed more frequently than the control group was watching TV!
The research team was lead by Robert Friedland, professor of neurology, University Hospitals of Cleveland. He said "A relative increase in the amount of time devoted to intellectual activities from early adulthood (ages 20-39) to mid-adulthood (ages 40-60) was associated with a significant decrease in the probability of having Alzheimer's disease later in life."
An intellectual or physical hobby stimulates the brain and may reduce neurodegeneration as seen in diseases such as Alzheimer's. So sitting watching the TV isn't enough for your brain, you need to keep it active. One way is by learning new things.
Many of the finalists in the Learning in Later Life Campaign 2000 to find England's oldest and most inspiring learners had art and painting as their hobby.
England's Oldest Learner was Fred Moore who was then aged 107 years. Fred continued with art classes until he died at the age of 109. The manager of his residential home said "Fred was a remarkable chap. He kept his memory, going back to the death of Queen Victoria, and always retained his great sense of humor."
So it's official then, learning a new hobby is good for you. Fancy learning to paint? Painting can be done indoors and outdoors, as well as by yourself or in a group.
It is never too late to start. Local night classes offer a range of options. Have a look online too.
Remember you can have a healthy brain and enjoy a hobby too. Don't leave it until tomorrow, begin today!
Catherine Calder is the author of the Acrylic Painting Course, a No-Draw step-by-step course ideal for anyone who wants to learn how to paint.