As published in The Boomer lift-out of The Advertiser in October 2018.

Good health isn’t just about the body: an active mind plays a crucial role in ageing well and delaying, or even preventing, the onset of related health problems.

There’s plenty of evidence to support the benefits of ‘exercising’ the brain to keep diseases such as dementia at bay.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine studied the impact of mental exercise on brain function in people aged 65 years and older. The training, called ‘speed of processing’, was conducted over 10 one-hour sessions for six weeks, followed by eight additional sessions.

The results revealed benefits for participants for up to ten years after the study. The risk of developing dementia was found to be 29 percent lower for those who undertook the training, compared to those in the control group – a statistically significant difference.

A study by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London has backed this up. Researchers found that playing a daily ten-minute game, challenging reasoning and memory skills, could help older people to with day-to-day tasks such as shopping and managing finances.

More and more, aged care providers are responding to these kinds of outcomes, with many offering a range of classes and activities to support healthy brain and memory function in older people.

The key to reaping the benefits of the protective power of mind exercises seems to be in finding mental activities that are fun and engaging, but tailored to address your particular needs. As with physical training, persistence plays an important role – our brains benefit from regular activity in the same way that our muscles and cardiovascular system do when we exercise.

Of course, a sharp mind is best supported by maintaining good overall health. Getting enough quality sleep and regular exercise, and enjoying a nutritious, balanced diet are crucial for living life to its fullest into our older years.

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