It’s well documented that we will all live longer, better lives, if only we were to eat our 5&2 a day, drink plenty of water, and take 30 minutes of exercise daily. But is that all we need to do? How do we fill the other 15 and a half waking hours of our day, once we’ve taken a brisk walk, or enjoyed a swim, or participated in an aerobic spin class?
Older people have been doing lots of the right things to keep their bodies and minds well for many years. Just think of those classic images of older men cogitating over a game of chess, grandads who play checkers along the streets or in the parks around the world, and retirees and their secret world of bridge-playing. Seniors may have more time on their hands, once their working lives are over, but they still seek out ways to fill the hours that are satisfying and enjoyable. And they’ve been doing so for centuries.
Happily, what our seniors have been doing, now has the seal of approval from medical specialists and health researchers who are constantly looking for ways to ensure our good health, long lives, and reduced cost to the health care system.
If you don’t fancy checkers or chess, here are a few other ways to exercise your brain and ensure cognitive fitness for the future:
- TV. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of TV, as long as you are watching something that will make you think. A historical or scientific documentary will get you thinking about things on a higher level than your run-of-the-mill passive entertainment. A good quiz show that you can take part in at home will also help. Keep up with world events by watching the news, current affairs, and Q and A.
- Books. Reading will always stimulate your brain, as long as it’s something with a little depth. Hello magazine won’t really cut it. Join the library and have a continuous supply of new literature to work your way through. You’ll also stay up to date with events and learning opportunities at your local library – a great way to stay sociable to. Reading groups are an enjoyable way to ensure that you read at a more critical level, thus flexing your brain even more.
- Hobbies – what have you spent your working life wishing you had done? Are you an aspiring artist? Maybe, deep down, there’s a budding wood-turner just waiting to get out? Join a group, class, or workshop and start doing the thing that you love. Your brain will start to work in ways you never knew it could, with a little inspiration and encouragement!
- On a quiet morning, or a rainy day, when you just can’t get out, it’s always a good idea to have a variety of puzzle-type activities to do at home. Puzzles are one of the best ways to keep your brain’s neurons firing. Number-based puzzles such as Sudoku are really popular, as are word-based puzzles such as crosswords. Start with the easy ones, and work your way up to the fiendishly hard Sudoku or the cryptic crosswords. Once you’ve worked out the tricks and strategies, you’ll know you have a super-fit brain. Jigsaw puzzles will exercise that visual part of your brain, as well as fine-tuning your memory, organizational, and processing skills.
- If you’re a real social butterfly and like to get out and about, travel and sightseeing are a more interactive way of learning about history and culture. When you are visiting museums and art galleries, be sure to read as much as possible about the artefacts and art, or listen to and engage with the tour guides. If you visit foreign countries, try to learn a little of their language too, and by speaking what you have learned, your brain gets a chance to consolidate its learning – newly connected neurons will be strengthened, and your learned skills will stay with you for longer.
Together with a healthy body, a healthy mind will offer you decades more life to enjoy at a really fulfilling level – good for you, and good for your children and grandchildren who will also benefit from your health and energy!