Older people are often urged to stay mentally active with crossword puzzles or other cognitive challenges. They have also been encouraged to exercise physically.
A small new study compared the effects of physical and mental activity on a group of roughly 100 sedentary senior citizens who were complaining of memory or thinking difficulties. Subjects were randomized to either aerobic exercise or stretching, computerized mental challenges or educational DVDs.
In the course of three months, all subjects improved their cognitive test scores significantly, but no one intervention stood out. The researchers concluded that sedentary older adults complaining of memory problems benefit from activity of any sort.
The bottom line seems to be that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for the brain. Socialize, stay active, do any kind of exercise or challenge yourself mentally and you are likely to benefit.