When you hear the phrase “use it or lose it,” you probably think about what it means in terms of your bedroom behavior. But the philosophy actually applies to a different region of your body much further north: your brain. The good news is that it takes very little to exercise this part of your body—and it’s free. According to a new study, those who keep socializing see their most vital organ stay stronger than those who isolate. Read on to find out how to keep your brain and social life active, and for more on how to improve your health in your senior years, check out This Is Why Laughter Actually Is The Best Medicine, Doctors Say.

“It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy when it comes to the brain,” lead study author Cynthia Felix, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and a post-doctoral associate in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, said in a statement. “Social engagement costs hardly anything, and we do not have to worry about side-effects.”

Felix’s research, which was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, studied 293 subjects with an average age of 83 years old and compared their levels of social engagement. Using a brain scan known as Diffusion Tensor Imaging MRI, Felix and her team found that study participants who took part in activities such as playing board games, going to the movies, meeting with friends or family once a week, working, volunteering, or living with a spouse or other friend showed more robust gray matter in their brains based on their levels of activity. The study authors concluded that the boost in brain health provided by social stimulation helped keep the brain from atrophying, which leads to dementia once brain cells begin to die. They also pointed out that “moderate doses” of interpersonal interaction were largely beneficial.

Felix said the findings had massive implications for the more immediate state of the world. “Our data were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe our findings are particularly important right now, since a one-size-fits-all social isolation of all older adults may place them at risk for conditions such as dementia,” she said. “Older adults should know it is important for their brain health that they still seek out social engagement in safe and balanced ways during the pandemic.”

But keeping up with your friends isn’t the only way to make sure your brain stays healthy as you age. Read on for more simple ways to stay sharp in your later years, and for more on the way your noggin works, check out 23 Facts About Your Brain That Will Blow Your Mind.

Read the original article on Best Life.

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