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What do we lose First? Brain or Muscle?

Which declines first with aging – our brain or our muscles?

From the age of 50, there is a gradual decline in both physical activity and cognitive abilities. We know the two are correlated, and that movement and activity greatly effects the brain and vice versa. But which of these influences the other? Does physical activity impact the brain or does cognitive abilities impact physical activity? To answer this question, researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, and the NCCR Lives Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research used a database of over 100,000 people aged 50-90 who physical and cognitive ability were measured every two years for 12 years. The findings, published in the journal of Health Psychology, showed that – contrary to what was previously thought – cognitive abilities ward off inactivity much more than physical activity prevents the decline of cognitive abilities. What does this mean for us? We need to prioritize exercising our brains.

Below are some tips to exercise your brain and keep both your mind and your body in shape:

  1. Play Games – Suduko, crosswords and electronic Ames can all improve your brain’s speed and memory
  2. Learn a new skill – learning a new skill works multiple areas of your brain as you learn new movements and associate things differently.
  3. Make simple changes to “challenge” your brain – change your routes to the grocery store, pick different trails to go on your daily walks, use the opposite hand to open door. Small little changes in your daily routines will force your brain to pay attention.
  4. Read and tell stories – practice telling stores, both old and new, so they are interesting, compelling and fun.
  5. Meditation – daily meditation is perhaps one of the greatest things you can do for your mind and body health. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in a new and interesting way.
  6. See a performance enhancement specialist – doctors practicing within a clinical neuroscience paradigm not only work with those who have had injuries or neurological issues, but they can also provide therapies and exercises to enhance your brain’s health.

What do you do to exercise your brain?


“Relationship between decline in cognitive resources and physical activity”. Cheval, Boris,Orsholits, Dan,Sieber, Stefan,Courvoisier, Delphine,Cullati, Stéphane,Boisgontier, Matthieu P.
Health Psychology doi:10.1037/hea0000857.

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