Monday, June 26, 2017

Keep an Active Schedule to Preserve an Active Mind

Staying busy may be the secret to staying smart,

Man with an active schedule

according to a study published online in the May 17, 2016 issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Scientists asked 330 older adults to rate how busy their daily routines were, by answering questions such as, “How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?” The researchers also gave study participants a battery of cognitive tests.

Analysis of the data revealed that participants who reported the busiest schedules were most likely to achieve high scores on the tests of mental performance. The busier a participant was, the better his or her performance on the tests. The researchers theorized that busy people may have more “effortful engagement” with life than less active individuals, resulting in a comparatively greater sense of purpose, higher levels of challenge and greater opportunity to learn new skills.

How to Achieve a Brain Boost

The most effective way to achieve a brain boost from a busy lifestyle would be to fill your calendar with a broad range of stimulating mental, physical, and social activities, which research suggests can help you maintain optimal brain health and functioning.

Seek pursuits that interest, challenge or inspire you or involve new people, new topics and new skills.

Some ideas for brain-boosting activities:

  • Join an exercise group
  • Take a class, either online or at a local school or university
  • Learn a new sport or board game
  • Become a member of your neighborhood association
  • Volunteer to help out at your place of worship
  • Learn a language
  • Incorporate more physical activity into your day by walking or biking instead of driving
  • Tutor kids at the local elementary school
  • Join a book club

However, avoid over-scheduling that might cause unhealthy levels of stress--the idea is to add some additional brain-stimulating activities to your schedule, not to wear yourself out.


This article originally appeared in Mind, Mood & Memory, a publication of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to maintaining mental fitness from middle age and beyond.

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