There are plenty of reasons to stay in shape as you get older. It can help maintain a healthy weight and keep muscles strong. Now, Consumer Reports says a growing body of evidence suggests that keeping yourself physically fit, may also help you stay mentally sharp. Most of the research shows that aerobic exercise has huge benefits for your brain health as well as your heart health. But we’re also starting to see some studies, beginning to show that other types of exercise can really benefit your brain as you age.
Step one is that first step. A 30-minute walk, 5 days a week, will help you meet the minimum Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for older adults, but one study links the biggest boost in brainpower to longer sessions of 45 minutes to an hour.
If you can, pick up your pace. Getting your heart rate up seems to maximize the cognitive benefits. But it’s not just about aerobics, one study that looked at older women, found that those who had stronger, more powerful legs, actually retained more of their brain’s grey matter, which could be a sign of more robust cognitive health, as you age.
If you’re steady on your feet, try standing up without using your hands. Then, do it again. Try squeezing in a few repetitions in, during commercial breaks. The Chinese martial art of Tai Chi also appears to benefit your brain. It’s low impact, easy on your joints and a particularly good choice for people who are new to working out or aren’t as mobile.
Consumer Reports also suggests considering joining a class. Group programs incorporating resistance and aerobic training have also been shown to be beneficial for your brain. Just remember to talk with your doctor before you start any new exercise program.
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