Physical, Mental and Social Activity

Maintaining meaningful relationships, keeping physically active, and pursuing our passions and interests all contribute to staying mentally intact as we age. Combining at least two of these activities simultaneously gives our brains an even bigger boost!

WE HUMANS DID NOT EVOLVE TO BE COUCH POTATOES. HUMANS EVOLVED OVER HALF A MILLION YEARS TO BE PHYSICALLY, SOCIALLY, AND MENTALLY ACTIVE, CAPABLE OF BOTH INTENSE EFFORT (LIKE SPRINTING) AND DAYS-LONG ENDURANCE HUNTING. FAILURE TO ENGAGE IN ACTIVITIES WHICH REQUIRE SIMILAR EXERTION THREATENS THE PROPER FUNCTIONING OF THE WHOLE BODY, ESPECIALLY THE BRAIN, WHICH DEPENDS FOR ITS HEALTH ON CLOSE SOCIAL CONNECTIONS, A FIT BODY, AND A FLEXIBLE MIND.

Physical Activity

Exercise is necessary, not only to keep our bodies working well, but also to promote a strong flow of oxygen, blood, and lymph, and to support the formation of new brain cells. At a minimum, plan a weekly regime that will raise your heart rate and support strength and flexibility.

  • What exercise should you do? Exercise you will do! Start with walking for even 15 minutes a day and increase to one hour to build endurance.
  • Learn a new activity like ballroom dancing, bike riding, or martial arts.
  • Join a gym, exercise with a friend or work with a trainer to stay motivated.
  • Both aerobic exercise and strength training are important as we age. Do some form of aerobic exercise several days a week, working up to 30-45 minutes each day.
  • Do strength training, covering all of the major muscle groups, 2-3x/week.

Mental Stimulation

  • Keep learning new things: read books, attend classes and lectures, see movies.
  • Do mental exercises on a site such as Posit Science (brainhq.com).
  • Combine mental, social, and physical challenges. Try eating or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, for example.

Social Interaction

Staying socially active helps us feel connected, gives our lives meaning, and contributes to health and longevity. Many studies have linked social isolation to developing dementia. So when we lose close relationships, especially as we age, it’s important to rebuild our social life by making new connections. Here are a few suggestions that can make all the difference:

  • Engage in sports, games, and activities you enjoy.
  • Volunteer and maintain memberships in social clubs and religious groups that are meaningful to you.
  • Nurture close friendships and family relationships.
  • Schedule social events and attend them.
  • Set a goal of making at least one new friend every few months.