Want to Stay Sharp and “On the Ball” Then Keep Busy
Lots of people complain when their schedule gets too busy, but new research suggests that being booked-up might be good for the brain.
The study of older adults found that those of us with busy schedules to do better on tests of memory, information processing and reasoning.
Researchers said the findings do not prove that busyness makes us smarter.
But sharper people do seek out more mental stimulation, have more resources that allow them to lead active lives.
On the other hand, past research has found that learning new skills can improve older adults’ overall mental acuity, said study leader Sara Festini.
“We think it is likely that being busy is good for your cognition,” said Ms. Festini, a researcher with the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas.
She and her colleagues reported the findings in the 17 May online issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
The results are in line with those from many previous studies, the researchers said.
Past research revealed that older adults who are more active, mentally, physically or socially tend to have better mental function and a lower risk of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends all 3 types of activity for maintaining better brain health.
According to Ms. Festini, busyness could be a proxy for people’s “cognitive engagement” in daily life.
For the study, she and her colleagues had 330 men and women rate their “busyness” levels, asking questions such as, “How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?” The study volunteers were between 50 and 89 years old.
Also, the researchers gave the volunteers a battery of tests that gauged memory, information processing speed, reasoning and vocabulary.
Overall, the study found, the busier people were in their daily lives, the better their test performance, especially when it came to remembering specific events from the past. The findings were not explained by age or education level.
People’s health, both physical and mental could affect both their daily activities and their scores on tests of memory and thinking.
Ms. Festini said she was interested in studying the subject because people often talk about their tight schedules, but there is little research on how our “busyness” relates to health.
On one hand, a packed schedule could cause unhealthy levels of stress; on the other, busy people may have more active engagement with life, the researchers suggested.
It would be interesting to know whether the busy study participants were stressed out by their schedules, and that could vary by age.
Older adults might tend to see a hectic schedule as a good thing, a sign that they have purpose in life.
The current findings say nothing about the types of activities that are related to sharper mental skills. But past studies have shown there may be benefits from physical exercise, mental tasks, such as crossword puzzles, reading, writing, and social activities.
This study provides further motivation for age related research to seek out additional activities and to keep learning new skills throughout adulthood.
Daily activity, eating real food and exercise important to promote cognitive health in people over age 50.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively