Sure, crossword puzzles and mind teasers can boost your brain power. But a movie, cocoa and sex might be more fun.
Recent research has highlighted what appear to be several intriguing ways to counter the effects of aging on gray matter. Consider these tactics if you’re looking to gain a cognitive edge:
Find your inner artist. MRI tests showed that recent retirees who took drawing or painting classes improved connectivity between regions of the brain, according to researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. Many brain functions rely on the interplay between regions.
Art instruction also increased participants’ scores on measures of psychological resilience. “Resilience means that you cope well with stress and negative environmental and social factors,” says study author Christian Maihöfner, a physician and professor of neurology at the university.
Go to the mat. A recent study supported by funding from the National Institute on Aging compared a group of people ages 55 to 70 who practiced hatha yoga three times a week and a similar group who did simple stretching and toning exercises. After eight weeks, the yoga group was speedier and more accurate in cognitive tasks and less apt to be distracted.
“The meditative exercises in yoga aim to help you focus and be aware within the moment by trying to keep distracting thoughts away,” says researcher Neha P. Gothe, assistant professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. “These mental exercises seem to affect the way you think outside of yoga practice.”