Fitness for Life
Recently, while I was doing my workout at the gym, a news item on the TV caught my attention – something about Super Agers. Hmmm, I wondered. Ironically, I was working out on the elliptical machine when I saw it, but I was too far from the TV to hear what the program was about. I kept it in mind and when I arrived home I searched the web and found more information about Super Agers. I delved into numerous articles regarding this fascinating topic. According to an article from the Business Insider, “Research has shown that some older people stay sharp into old age and retain the ability to recall personal experiences with just as much accuracy as their middle-aged peers.” Now, that’s what I love to hear!
The demographic trend of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and beyond continues to increase, keeping the pool of research constantly growing. One question we all have is how can we age gracefully? “Aging does not necessarily imply a loss of cognitive function,” explains Rick Nauert, PhD in his article in PsychCentral. One study in particular followed 2,500 people ages 70 to 79 for eight years, testing their cognitive skills several times throughout the years. In conclusion, 30% of the participants were able to maintain their cognitive skills with just a modest amount of exercise and social activities. The study also showed that“People who exercise moderately to vigorously at least once a week are 30 percent more likely to maintain their cognitive function than those who do not exercise that often.” I think that’s a great result in exchange for a small effort.
While it seems easy to find data supporting active exercise to maintain physical fitness as we age, we are also anxious to learn what else we can do to maintain cognitive abilities. Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas has a suggestion: “It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially.” Dr. Park suggests that we should go and try something new: learn to play chess, take up digital photography, join a quilting club, learn to read music, etc. Dr. Park notes that just listening passively to classical music is insufficient: “Only the groups that were confronted with continuous and prolonged mental challenge improved.”
In addition to the obvious benefits or learning a new skill or language or hobby, there are collateral benefits to being open to new experiences, being curious and creative, and making social connections – it makes life much more interesting! Habits that improve cognitive function, found in an article in Psychology Today, inherently improve our quality of life. When we try to improve our cognitive abilities we can look forward to events, meet nice people, create and participate in small interest groups, and share experiences.
As the Mayo Clinic points out “Regular exercise helps in a number of ways, some of which include: Releasing feel-good brain chemicals such as neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids.” If you aspire to be a Super Ager, you can improve your quality of life. Look for social opportunities (especially around common interests), get a good workout in a few times each week, reach out to friends and family, and strive to learn something new and challenging. No matter your level of activity, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch.
Luis Martinez is a guest blogger for St. John’s. He is an active senior that likes to observe and write about how people work at their careers, guide their businesses, strengthen their families, stay physically fit and mentally sharp, and race their sports cars. Luis habla español. Follow Luis on Twitter @BeyondYourYears, or email Luis@HumanCapitalSP.com