1. Get sweaty
If you needed one more reason to hit the gym, this is it: keeping your body fit is the single most effective way to keep your brain spry for the long-haul. “Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain, too,” explains Dr. Ken Rockwood, a professor of geriatric medicine and the Kathryn Allen Weldon professor of Alzheimer’s research at Dalhousie University in Halifax. According to Rockwood, exercise “trumps by a large margin” every other strategy for brain fitness.
Dr. Jack Diamond, scientific director of the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, agrees. “The beauty of regular exercise is that it not only reduces your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, but it can actually slow it down if you already have it,” he says. Rockwood recommends getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days a week. “You need to be huffing and puffing,” he explains. “It’s important to get the heart rate up.”
2. Add some weight to your workout
Again, what’s good for the body is great for the brain. Adding a simple weight routine your workout will not only tone your muscles, but it will keep your thinking cap strong, too. Rockwood says no matter what your fitness level, adding resistance training to your workout twice a week can make a difference for long-term brain health. He recommends alternating arm and leg exercises-things like bicep curls with hand weights, and leg lifts (which can be done while seated) with ankle weights-for the most benefit.
3. Increase your knowledge
Studies indicate that the more time you spend in school, the better able you will be to keep dementia at bay. “It could be that formal education lays down the foundation for a good brain for the rest of your life,” explains Rockwood, “or that educated people naturally seek out novel, intellectual stimuli.” Ultimately, learning is the most fundamental brain workout-and the more you do it, the more you’ll benefit. “The neurochemicals associated with laying down a new memory are also protective for your old memories,” says Rockwood.