It might be strange to think about, but your health is a reflection of the life you’ve lived and the decisions you make every day. Most people don’t just wake up one day with heart disease, type-2 diabetes, or dementia—they are conditions that build over time.
Your daily habits can play a massive role in how you will age. What you eat and do to fill your days can inhibit or promote healthy aging, affecting both physical and mental health. And there is a growing body of research indicating that regular exercise and a nutritious diet can help protect memory from age-related decline.
Physical and mental fitness are inseparable. Several studies indicate that people who get regular exercise experience continued mental sharpness and dexterity into their 70s and beyond.
Although it’s unclear exactly how much you might need, studies show that it should be vigorous and done regularly, as often as daily or three times per week. Some examples of vigorous exercise include:
- High impact aerobic dancing
- Square dancing
Of course, if you’re currently inactive, it’s not a good idea to just jump into vigorous activity. Starting moderately with something like water aerobics, brisk walks, table tennis, or stationary biking can help you get started before graduating to higher levels of intensity.
But having regularly scheduled exercise is only part of what you can do to improve brain health and memory while potentially delaying decline. The other is finding ways to simply include more activity. Some ways to do this include:
- Walking to run errands instead of driving
- Taking stairs instead of elevators or escalators
- Plant a garden and take care of it
- Schedule exercise an exercise class, or a few, into your week
- Learn a new sport that requires some exertion
- Swim regularly if you’re close to water (pool, lake, etc.)
Exercise is a great way to keep your brain healthy, but you can enhance the benefits with a Mediterranean-style diet. Research has shown a healthy heart can lower the risk of future memory and thinking troubles, and a Mediterranean-style diet is great for heart health. Studies also indicate that people who closely follow this type of diet are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who don’t.