Cognitive + physical workouts for the win

You can stay both physically and mentally fit when you put both goals on your must-do list. The idea of a cognitive-physical approach to overall health is gaining ground, and for good reason. Older people who have always tried to stay fit both cognitively and physically are seeing great benefits as they enter their elder years. People who have worked out their bodies and their brains as a daily habit are feeling good and are enjoying more mental sharpness. Those who let things slide may not have the acuity and well-being of their counterparts.

Many fans of ‘cognified fitness’ feel they may stave off dementia, depression, and fogginess that can arrive in the golden years. They can enjoy their careers, families, and social activities more intensely when their mental and physical health are both in peak condition throughout their lives.

Can you do double duty, working out both the body and brain at the same time? Yes! You can dual-task in a few creative ways, including:

Cardio & Cranial. Your cardio workout may be mundane on its own, so take the opportunity to challenge your brain while riding the exercise bike or running through the neighborhood. Count backward, think of song titles that start with “B,” or solve some 2-digit multiplication problems in your head. The oxygen and endorphins pulsing through your brain can be a boost to these activities.

Memory Game Drills. Perform some exercise moves in an increasing sequence relying on memory. For example, start with 4 push-ups and 6 jumping jacks. Do that again, and add 8 pull-ups. Do all three, then add 10 bicep curls. Keep adding on to perhaps ten different moves and see if you can remember each successive activity. This is a full (and fun) workout for the brain and the body.

Tech It Up. Use technology to your advantage. There are countless apps that offer memory games, trivia challenges, word puzzles, and more. If you are using a weight machine, answer a question or solve a problem between reps. Prop a tablet in front of you while you cruise on the elliptical machine. Log in to a podcast while you do stretches and yoga.

If you need evidence on the benefits of working out mentally and physically, ask friends, relatives, or acquaintances who partake. You may notice there is an added spark and zest for life in those who enjoy this lifestyle. Fitness specialists all seem to agree that it is a wonderful habit to embrace, starting at any age. There is an intricate connection between active movement and cognition that can’t be denied, and working out both aspects can improve overall life quality for everyone.

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