ONE thing you must do to keep a coherent mind

There are a lot of ways to keep your memory and cognitive abilities operating smoothly as you age.

You can try the MIND diet — a hybrid between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet—which involves eating whole grains, leafy greens, veggies, nuts, berries, beans, olive oil and wine.

It’s been shown in several studies to improve your cognitive abilities and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, so it wouldn’t be a bad decision.

Or you can try doing “neurobics,” mental exercises and brain games that help build new neuronal networks in your brain, encourage healthy brain activity and slow the aging of your brain.

You can even make more friends, join clubs, go to more concerts and throw more parties because socializing more has been shown to help you maintain your memory and keep dementia at bay.

But whether you do all of these things or not, you should know that there’s one thing you absolutely need to do to ensure your brain health for years to come…

Exercise.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne conducted a 20 year study where they followed 387 Australian women. They looked at a lot of potential risk factors for cognitive decline, including diet, education, marital and employment status, number of children, mood, physical activity and smoking.

Of all these factors, the one that made the most difference was exercise.

These researchers found that women who exercised most frequently over the 20 year period had the best memory at the end of the study.

And the most exciting part is that researchers concluded any type of exercise will do. So you don’t have to be a marathon runner to experience benefits—even something as simple as a daily walk could do your memory a world of good.

“The message from our study is very simple. Do more physical activity, it doesn’t matter what, just move more and more often. It helps your heart, your body and prevents obesity and diabetes and now we know it can help your brain,” said study author University of Melbourne Associate Professor Cassandra Szoeke.

What was most important (according to the study) was that you exercised consistently. However, researchers emphasize that even if you’ve stayed sedentary for much of your life, you’re not a lost cause. If you change your ways in middle age, it could still do a lot for your brain health.

“If you don’t start at 40, you could miss one or two decades of improvement to your cognition because every bit helps. That said, even once you’re 50 you can make up for lost time,” said Szoeke.

So if you’re hovering in or around middle age, make a change now. Even if you’ve been a little light on exercise in your younger years, a mid-life change could be the key to your dementia-free future.

Sources:
  1. “Can Diet Prevent Dementia?” University of California-Berkley. http://www.berkeleywellness.com. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  2. “Friends Make You Smart.” AARP. http://www.aarp.org. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  3. “Regular exercise protects against cognitive decline in later years.” The University of Melbourne. MedicalXpress. http://medicalxpress.com. Retrieved June 9, 2016.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.