I remember as a kid watching my grandma sitting at the kitchen table with the daily newspaper working on the daily crossword puzzle. She’d consistently talk about how exercising the brain with things like crossword puzzle was good for old people to do so there brains wouldn’t go soft. As a kid, whenever she said this I had funny images of brain noodles turning into more of a pudding like substance. Crosswords would keep the brain noodley!
It turns out that Grandma may have been better served by putting down the paper and going outside for a walk.
A new study published in the medical journal Neurology suggests a brisk walk or bike ride may actually be better at preventing mental decline than crosswords, learning a foreign language, or visiting with family and friends.
The study was conducted by a group at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who performed MRI’s on 600 73-year-old Scots. The author of the study, Alan Gow PhD, wrote, “People in their 70’s that participated in more physical exercise…had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those that were less physically active.”
The researchers plan to have the participants undergo a second MRI at age 76 to see if the original findings of exercise’s benefits remain solid.
Here’s my takeaway. Did Grandma was her time completing the crosswords, reading challenging books, and visiting family? Not at all. Would she have benefited even more if she had made more effort to remain physically active on a daily basis? Absolutely.
Making rigorous movement and mental stimulation daily priorities is clearly a winning combination to stay healthy and mentally sharp for as long as possible.