- We are used to thinking of intelligence as largely a matter of genetic inheritance, but that is not the whole picture. What you do affects your mental well-being: staying physically and mentally active helps us stay sharp as we age.
- Nevertheless, our personal efforts to bolster cognitive enhancement cannot forestall all declines in our cognitive performance.
- What is especially surprising is the powerful link between physical activity and mental acuity. Staying fit helps us keep cognition more robust as well.
As everybody knows, if you do not work out, your muscles get flaccid. What most people don’t realize, however, is that your brain also stays in better shape when you exercise. And not just challenging your noggin by, for example, learning a new language, doing difficult crosswords or taking on other intellectually stimulating tasks. As researchers are finding, physical exercise is critical to vigorous mental health, too.
Surprised? Although the idea of exercising cognitive machinery by performing mentally demanding activities—popularly termed the “use it or lose it” hypothesis—is better known, a review of dozens of studies shows that maintaining a mental edge requires more than that. Other things you do—including participating in activities that make you think, getting regular exercise, staying socially engaged and even having a positive attitude—have a meaningful influence on how effective your cognitive functioning will be in old age.
This article was originally published with the title Fit Body, Fit Mind?.