Stay sharp for lifeHealth
Occasional memory lapses—like forgetting where you left your keys or blanking on a name—become more common once we hit our 40s. But you can stave off the slowdown and keep your mind sharp with these five activities that can help improve memory, boost cognitive function, and reduce mental decline.
- Go for a Walk
You already know that regular exercise keeps your body fit, but it also improves brain health. When you get your heart pumping regularly with cardiovascular exercise—like walking, biking, or dancing—it increases the size of the hippocampus, the region of your brain responsible for memory and learning.
- Take a Nap
An afternoon snooze is more than just a guilty pleasure. Along with helping you feel refreshed, the extra shut-eye may help boost your memory. A recent study found that a 45- to 60-minute nap can significantly improve memory performance. Researchers say that taking a nap after learning something new produces a fivefold improvement in information retrieval from memory.
- Read a Good Book
When you read, your mind has a lot to gain. Along with sparking your imagination, that new best seller can stimulate your brain. Researchers have found that reading heightens connectivity in certain areas of the brain—and that those effects persist for five days after finishing a book.
- Learn a New Language
Speaking a second language later in life is an excellent way to discover a new culture. It could also help delay cognitive decline. According to research, learning a new language, even as an adult, may slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, compared to speaking only your native tongue. People who are conversant in multiple languages also have better memory and multitasking skills. Ready to learn Italian, French, or Spanish? Sign up for a class, hire a tutor, or use a program like Rosetta Stone.
- Get Together With Friends
When you meet a pal for coffee or RSVP to an invite, it strengthens bonds and may boost your brainpower. Research shows that older adults who are frequently socially active experience lower rates of cognitive decline. Make plans to visit friends and family, or expand your inner circle by joining a local book club or volunteering at a community organization.