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Body, Mind Workouts May Help Seniors Stay Sharp

Small steps, including stretching, watching educational DVDs, reaped rewards

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It's not always as straightforward to prescribe mental activities given that different people are drawn to different activities, but that needn't be a deterrent, he noted.

"The new study suggests that the engagement, per se, is probably more important in causing the protective effect, and that the nature of the particular engaging activity is less important," Gandy said.

Whether doing crossword puzzles, learning to play the piano or taking up a foreign language, find something you enjoy and do it regularly, he suggested.

"We have at hand right now the means to sustain cognitive function and delay Alzheimer's by adopting a routine of physical and mental activities available to everyone, everywhere, at no cost," Gandy said.

Because most of the study participants were highly educated, it's possible that the findings aren't applicable to all older adults, the authors acknowledged.

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