Most of us are well aware that physical exercise goes a long way toward keeping us healthy in our sunset years. But what about our brain health? With rising rates of Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain decline, is there anything we can do to maintain good brain function?
Turns out there is, and it’s sparking hot interest in ways to power up the gray matter, according to Marina Koren writing in The Smithsonian.
“As a corollary to working out, people have begun joining brain gyms to flex their mental muscles,” Koren writes. “For a monthly fee of around $15, websites like Lumosity.com and MyBrainTrainer.com promise to enhance memory, attention and other mental processes through a series of games and brain teasers.
“Such ready-made mind exercises are an alluring route for people who worry about their ticking clock,” she continues. “But there’s no need to slap down the money right away—new research suggests the secret to preserving mental agility may lie in simply cracking open a book.”
Koren is referring to a recent report in Neurology that shows reading and writing slows down cognitive decline and helps maintain mental capacities.
“Reading gives our brains a workout because comprehending text requires more mental energy than, for example, processing an image on a television screen,” Koren writes. “Reading exercises our working memory, which actively processes and stores new information as it comes. Eventually, that information gets transferred into long-term memory, where our understanding of any given material deepens.”
“Writing can be likened to practice: the more we rehearse the perfect squat, the better our form becomes, tightening all the right muscles,” Koren continues. “Writing helps us consolidate new information for the times we may need to recall it, which boosts our memory skills.”
Add this info to what we already know about the relationship between books and good health; reading books has other key health benefits, including open-mindedness, greater rates of success, and even a longer life. Book reading has even been shown to make us more human.
So instead of worrying about your declining mental state – one study suggests that most of us begin to show a decline in mental processes as early as our late 20s – pick up a book and read something.