Most people associate fitness with physical activity. We visualize people walking, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, or performing aerobics. While that’s a vital part of healthy aging, another type of fitness is important, too. That is giving your brain a daily workout.

One way to do that is by becoming a lifelong learner. Here’s what we know about continuing to challenge your brain with new information and hobbies as you grow older.

Brain Health and Continuous Learning

After you retire, it’s easy for bad habits to sneak up on you, like spending too many hours sitting in front of the television. Not only is a sedentary lifestyle bad for your physical health, it’s bad for your cognitive health, too.

Just like with muscle mass, the phrase “use it or lose it” applies to cognitive health. When you settle into a routine and your brain isn’t stimulated by new things, cognitive well-being can decline. But when you make a point of learning something new every day, your brain responds by staying alert and active.

A few ideas to make brain health a part of your daily fitness routine could include:

  1. Learning a new language: Learning another language is a great way to test and expand your mind. While it might be fun to take a class at a local community college or learning annex, online platforms may be more convenient and cost-effective. Duolingo and Babbel earn high praise from users. By spending two hours a week on either one, you’ll be able master a basic understanding of a new language in four to five months.
  2. Taking a class: Many universities and colleges offer seniors the option to audit classes or take a course at a deeply discounted rate. You could learn more about marine biology, art history, or literature with students of all ages. Another choice might be to take advantage of programs top tier colleges offer online. For example, you could choose Marketing Analytics through the University of Virginia or Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies at Harvard University. No matter what your educational background, you can sign up for a class of your choice. Most are free.
  3. Creating music: The benefits of music are well documented. It has the power to soothe, uplift, or calm the spirit. That’s why it’s used as therapy in settings like hospitals and hospice care centers. Learning how to play a musical instrument stimulates the brain. Explore sites like Music Go Round and Reverb to find and purchase used musical instruments from guitars to drum sets. If classes aren’t offered by any music stores near you, try Simply Piano or Simply Guitar by JoyTunes. It’s a great option whether you need a refresher or are new to learning an instrument.
  4. Dabbling in art: The process of creating, even if you don’t think you have any artistic skills, challenges the mind and boosts the spirit. If you don’t have a nearby art museum or school that offers classes, you can find one online. Sites like Creative Live and Skillshare host virtual art classes on topics ranging from photography to drawing. And don’t forget about YouTube. You can find a variety of free educational videos to watch and learn from there.
  5. Reading a book: Another activity that stimulates the brain is reading. Whether it’s the latest thriller or a new science fiction release, a good book can be brain food. If you don’t have the space to add more books to your collection or are trying to stick to a budget, ask your local library about e-lending programs and apps like Libby that allow you to read online.

Opportunities for Learning Abound at Heritage Senior Communities

We understand that staying mentally and physically active is an essential part of healthy aging. Therefore, our residents have a variety of programs and events to participate in every day. From stretching and walking groups to religious services and art workshops, Heritage communities are a thriving place to call home. Call the location nearest you to ask for a copy of our monthly activities calendar, and join us for a program of your choice!