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3 Reasons Why Lifelong Learning Is Critically Important for Your Health

By Cyn Meyer February 16, 2019 Health and Fitness

Think school is something reserved for your adolescent years?

Perhaps in the traditional sense… but studies show that education is particularly important for people in their 60s and beyond.

Lifelong learning is your path to achieving a purposeful retirement lifestyle that you love. Your brain is designed to grow for the rest of your life, and both your body and mind crave the stimulation and muscle strengthening.

If you’re interested in setting yourself up for a more successful aging process, read these three reasons why lifelong learning is so critically important for your health:

Reason #1: Lifelong Learning Improves Your Memory

While it can’t cure Alzheimer’s, lifelong learning can certainly help improve your brain plasticity and even delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

One study out of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that seniors who were involved in higher levels of intellectual stimulation throughout their lifetime had a significant marked delay in the onset of memory issues and Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Interestingly, these seniors reported a delay of Alzheimer’s symptoms and issues, despite not actually having lower amounts of Amyloid Beta protein plaques (the protein that clogs your memory and destroys your synapse connections) in their brains.

Because it increases the efficiency of your brain, learning something new, like a new skill, hobby, or activity, can help boost your memory.

Another study conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Texas at Dallas found that when seniors took on a new mentally challenging hobby they saw a lasting increase in their memory skills. The researchers believe that certain high-challenge activities strengthen the numerous networks in your brain.

Paul Nussbaum, PhD, director of the Aging Research and Education Center in Pittsburgh said:

“Every time your heart beats, 25% of that blood goes right to the brain. But while exercise is critical, it may be education that is more important. In the 21st century, education and information may become for the brain what exercise is for the heart.”

Bonus Tip: Learn to play a new musical instrument. When you play a musical instrument you engage multiple parts of your brain simultaneously… And when that happens, there are several synergistic benefits, including:

  • Your reaction time increases (something that tends to slow as we grow older).
  • Music memory is the last part of your brain touched by Alzheimer’s because of the strong emotional connection.
  • Integrating senses and information between your vision, hearing, touch, and fine movements can make long-lasting changes in your brain.
  • Playing music strengthens your decision-making and problem-solving functioning.

Want more tips on how to increase your brain plasticity? Check out this 9-step guide.

Reason #2: Lifelong Learning Lengthens Your Life Span

There’s also research that tells us lifelong learning increases your longevity.

Researchers David Cutler and Adriana Lleras-Muney reported there to be a large and persistent relationship between education and health and suggest a year of formal education can add more than six months to your life span.

They found that the more educated you are, the lower your rates of anxiety and depression. And the more educated you are, the lower your rates of common chronic diseases, like heart disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, emphysema, diabetes, asthma, ulcer.

Jacquelyn James, the director of research at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, said:

“As we get older, it is more important to find things to do that light up our lives… successful aging and longevity are built upon patterns of lifelong learning.”

Reason #3: Lifelong Learning Reduces Your Stress Level

The simple act of reading can reduce your stress level tremendously.

There was a study conducted by cognitive neuropsychologists at the University of Sussex in England, and they found that reading for as little as six minutes can lower your stress levels. The participants in the study experienced a slower heart rate and an easing in muscle tension.

And when you’re less stressed, there’s an explosion of benefits.

For seniors in particular, lower stress can mean better cardiovascular health, a boosted immune system, lower blood pressure, a lower risk for stroke or heart attack, and decreased levels of depression, to name a few.

Next Step? Engage Your Brain!

As a pre-retiree or retiree, you now have the opportunity to learn anything you want.

I repeat: anything you want. That means all the interests, hobbies, skills, and activities that you had to sacrifice (because life got in the way with all your duties and responsibilities), are now available to you…  and on your own terms, on your own time.

Creating an abundance of growth experiences for yourself is so critical in determining not only the way you live, but also the way you age.

So please, get out of your comfort zone – even if it’s not the most pleasant experience at first.

When you create new neural pathways in your brain it’s going to feel awkward, uncertain, challenging, uncomfortable… yet adventurous, fulfilling, and purposeful.

And if you’re curious about how to build a retirement lifestyle that you love with more purpose and exciting experiences, you can kickstart your lifelong learning now and join this free workshop where I’ll teach you 3 secrets that will change your life.

What have you always been curious about learning? How will you incorporate lifelong learning into your daily life? What activities stimulate your brain? Please join the conversation below!

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The Author

Founder of Second Wind Movement, Cyn Meyer offers education + coaching to help seniors transition into amazing next chapters and age successfully in place. She helps them live out active, healthy, happy "retirement" years, so they can better evade depression, loneliness, Alzheimer's and nursing home occupancy.

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