Age 35 to 55? You'd Better Do This Daily
Use it or lose it. We're talking about your mind. In a study with more than 5,300 people, researchers from University College London have determined that people ages 35 to 55--that is, those who are approaching and in the middle-age years--who participate in intellectually challenging leisure-time activities, such as reading or taking classes, have sharper minds than people who prefer solitary activities, such as gardening or household tasks. And doing this from ages 35 to 55 will help protect your mind as you age. Our intellectual ability is definitely influenced by what we do. "Participation in complex leisure activities keeps the brain active and engaged," lead researcher Dr. Archana Singh-Manoux told Reuters.
The study: In addition to testing short-term memory, mathematical reasoning skills, and vocabulary, the UK researchers asked 5,352 people between the ages of 35 and 55 what they did for fun.
The results: Those who spent more time on leisure activities had higher and better mental function than others, reports Reuters. Of particular value were activities that engaged the mind or brought the person into contact with people. These included cultural visits, playing cards or chess, reading, listening to music, or volunteering. To control for the fact that people who already have sharper minds are more likely to engage in such leisure time activities, the researchers used statistics to remove the influence of education and profession, two obvious factors that influence one's intellectual ability.
Previous research has shown that when older people engage in hobbies and socializing, it helps protect their minds against the ravages of aging. Now it seems that the earlier we begin the better. Exerting the mind in middle-age can protect it in old age. "Not all individuals decline at the same rate in old age, so some factors during the 'lifecourse,' both in early adulthood and middle age, must offer protection," Singh-Manoux explained to Reuters. The study findings were reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.