Health & Safety

June 14, 2013

The physiological effects of leisure

Senior Airman Noelle E. Reyes
452 Aeromedical Staging Squadron Mental health technician

If you’re looking for just another reason to take a break, here it is!

According to a 2009 study conducted by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, participation in regular leisure activities can help to prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk factors of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Just as studying or working requires mental flexibility and strength, leisure activities such as vacationing, playing games, or participating in hobbies can help to exercise the more creative side of the brain. People tend to forget that it is equally important to stimulate the left and right side of the brain and the easiest way to accomplish this is to do some of your favorite things!

Going on vacation gives your logical right side a break and allows you to exercise and expand your creative ability and memory. In the five-year long study conducted by The neurology journal’s publication department of researchers, an incredible 89% of people over the age of 55 showed increased or sustained cognitive ability, with the regular addition of leisure into their daily activities. These personal activities included reading, dancing, watching television, listening to music and more. The 11% that revealed a decline in their thinking ability and memory were consistently people with lower education, of blue-collar occupation, smokers, frequent drinkers and possessed medical conditions.

It is best to consider your leisure activities as a means to mental stimulation, activity and exercise. Neurological researchers revealed, “the cognitive activities, but not physical or social activities, had a protective effect against cognitive decline because of mental stimulation (a positive effect) and not just being [physically] active. Clearly, this study suggests that, like exercising your muscles to stay healthy, the brain does better with more activity.” Taking care of your brain’s health may be simpler and easier than you think. Do things you enjoy often and just consider it a part of your brain’s own regular physical training schedule.

Helpful Resources:
http://www.neurology.org/content/66/6/E21.full




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