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Your Brain – Use It or Lose it: June 16, 2012

New research finds that a combination of moderate exercise, along with mentally stimulating activities such as using a computer, help decrease the chances of having memory loss in people older than 70.

It may be the secret to successful aging – remaining physically and mentally active. 

“Exercise has been universally beneficial.  When people exercise their body they increase brain factors that make the nerve cells in their brain healthier. They increase the number of new nerve cells that are being generated,” says Dr. Michael Raab, a geriatrician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Raab focuses on memory disorders.  New research shows combining physical and mental exercise helps maintain the brain, much more than doing either one exclusively.

“Doing Sudoku puzzles, card games, dominos, jigsaw puzzle, even playing computer games are things that you can get better at. And coupling that with exercise keeps your brain healthier longer,” says Dr. Raab.

Use it or lose it. When it comes to boosting your brain, certain exercises work well for seniors. Tai chi is one that doesn’t put mind over muscle.

“People call it moving mediationOne it taught alignment, balance, a tremendous amount of focus,” says Lee Memorial Health System tai chi instructor Marc Rowe.

People who practice tai chi believe it blends the best of both worlds. 

“The exercise should also include movement, complexity, and memory, which tai chi does,” says Rowe.

Staying fit for life - it’s helping seniors live better, longer.

“That’s what makes 60 the new 40, or 80 the new 60,” says Dr. Raab.