New research out this week from Yale University suggests that a combination of both physical and mental exercise can help middle-aged professionals keep their memories sharp. Findings that physical exercise can help middle-aged brains have been trickling out for awhile now. As the Washington Post reported in November of last year,
"Scientists have found something that not only halts the brain shrinkage that starts in a person's 40s, especially in regions responsible for memory and higher cognition, but actually reverses it: aerobic exercise."What's new is solid evidence that "exercise plus mental challenge in middle age -- when many people start to notice subtle memory changes -- may offer the strongest, most widespread benefits for memory function."
So, if you've already been hitting the gym and are just in need of adding mental exercise, what sort of activities will give you the maximum benefit? In an interview on the sharpbrains.com blog, Dr. Yaakov Stern of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, who has researched the subject, prescribes "reading, visiting friends or relatives, going to movies or restaurants... or going on an excursion."
But another researcher, Shelly L. Willis of Pennsylvania State University, cautions that mental exercise "has to be consistent, and it has to be challenging. Just like you have to keep increasing the weights at the gym to make it challenging, you have to do the same with mental activity." So if you can do that crossword in under 10 minutes with no head scratching, it's time to upgrade to a more difficult puzzle.
Going on short trips, reading, and doing crosswords doesn't sound like too bitter a pill, but with many managers under constant time pressure at the office, it can be difficult to find time for these sort of enriching activities. This research provides one more incentive -- a sharp mind -- to motivate managers to make time in their hectic schedules to exercise their body and brain.