Exercising The Aging Brain

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From forgetting the keys to real dementia, the exercises – body and mind – that can actually help the aging brain.

Experts say exercise and socializing helps the brain. Here, George Jackson, right, 85, an army veteran and former boxer, exercises with Mary Diner, left, as they participate at a parkour class for elderly people in south London. The unique weekly class for people over 60 called parkour, a flashy discipline usually known for its acrobatic running, climbing and gravity-defying jumps. While most fitness classes aimed at seniors focus on calmer activities like dance or yoga, experts say parkour is a reasonable, if unorthodox, option., (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Experts say exercise and socializing may help preserve brain function. Here, George Jackson, right, 85, an army veteran and former boxer, exercises with Mary Diner, left, as they participate at a parkour class for people over 60. June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

We get older. Or we get lazy. Or unwell.  Or just lost in our Twitter feeds and Netflix binges. And one day, our brains just feel like mush. Forgetful. Foggy. Out of it. Not good. What’s the best way to stay sharp? There are a lot of people who will sell you a solution. A book of crossword puzzles. A bottle of Ginkgo biloba. But what really works? To keep our brains as sharp as they can be as we age or fester or lose the thread. There’s a lot of thought going into it. Some answers are very simple. This hour On Point: keeping an edge on your one and only brain.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Melissa Healy, health and science reporter for the Los Angeles Times. (@latmelissahealy)

Sandra Bond Chapman, cognitive neuroscientist. Founder and chief director at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she is also a professor of in brain health and behavioral and brain sciences. Author of "Make Your Brain Smarter." (@brainhealth)

Kathleen Taylor, expert in adult brain development and learning. Researcher and professor in the Saint Mary's College of California's school of education. Author of the forthcoming "Facilitating Brain-Aware Adult Learning," as well as co-author of "Developing Adult Learners" and "The Neuroscience of Adult Learning."

From Tom’s Reading List

The Hill: 21st Century Cures Act will change lives for the better — "Thanks to neuroscience research and technological advances, we now know the reverse is true. The brain continues to grow and change and retains the capacity to be repaired throughout our lives. New brain cells are made, new connections can be formed and old connections strengthened moment by moment in response to new experiences and new learning. The brain can even rewire systems long after an injury, after a brain setback, such as after chemotherapy or in the early stages of brain diseases like Alzheimer's — if the right intervention is applied."

Huffington Post: Closing the Gap From Scientific Discovery to Solutions -- "Each of us can take steps to improve our brain health immediately. There are easily adoptable habits we can build and small changes that we can all make to achieve better brain health."

New York Times: For An Aging Brain, Looking For Ways To Keep Memory Sharp — "The Institute of Medicine has cautioned consumers to beware of phony or poorly tested products that claim to 'prevent, slow or reverse the effects of cognitive aging.' Consumers should ask: Was the product shown to improve 'performance on real-world tasks'? Are the claims supported by 'high-quality research' that has been 'independently verified'? And, most important, how do the supposed benefits compare with those from actions like physical activity and social and intellectual engagement?"


This program aired on July 24, 2015.


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