The key to a sharp mind

Losing one’s cognitive agility is a common and real fear, especially as we get older. Forgetfulness or memory loss can be hugely frustrating to anyone who has experienced it. We tend to think that aging is to blame for cognitive decline, but this is generally not the case, at least not in isolation.

There are many studies that reveal that learning is key to maintaining a sharp mind. The continuation of learning throughout our lives keeps memory function strong as it gets us into the habit of being mentally active. Brain cells are stimulated as the brain is challenged to learn new information or skills.

It’s never too late to improve cognitive function. The University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study where 60-90 year olds were asked to engage in some sort of mental activity for 15 hours a week over three months. For the first group, new activities were tried, from quilt-making to digital photography.

A second group continued with regular activities they already partook in, such as listening to classical music or doing puzzles. A third group focused on social activities; field trips and entertainment.

Only the first group, who were actively engaging their minds and learning a new skill, showed improvements in memory function. Researchers found it was the mental challenge and unfamiliarity of the task that made the difference. “We found quite an improvement in memory, and we found that when we tested our participants a year later, that was maintained,” head researcher Denise Park says.

Henry Ford famously remarked that “anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Ford didn’t have access to the research when he said that, but he would probably be pleased to know that he has been proven right.

Whatever your age, do your brain a favour and learn something new. eCampus NZ has excellent courses available for online study. This means you can learn in a way that suits your lifestyle and your pace. What are you waiting for? Take a look today.

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