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Want to Sharpen Your Brain After 60? Use a Sword!

Most people in their 60s aren’t overly concerned about brain health. After all, most boomers are decades away from encountering any potential brain health issues.

At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence that says that the decisions that we make now, 60s, may have a profound impact on our health in our later years.

Why is Brain Health So Important?

We all know that getting in great shape is one of the best ways to improve every aspect of our lives after 60. The challenge is that most of us lack the intrinsic motivation and discipline to get started.

This is one of the reasons that I am such a big fan of making exercise fun. I’m not a cardio fan – ok, that’s a BIG understatement – but put me in a jazzercise class and I’ll happily dance for 45 minutes without noticing where the time went. What activities do you love?

In addition to helping us get our rear ends in gear, scientists are now saying that “open skill sports,” in which an activity involves unpredictable movements and situations, may help to keep our brains healthier than “closed skill sports,” like swimming, jogging or gymnastics.

Can You Sharpen Your Brain with a Sword?

A great example of an “open skill sport” that more people over 60 are embracing is fencing. I recently read an article in The Washington Post about the power of sports like fencing, and other open skill sports, to keep your brain healthy.

As the author pointed out, fencing involves learning complex motor movements. In addition, the fact that you are facing an unpredictable opponent means that your brain needs to stay on its toes, so to speak. You have to make quick decisions, constantly move and adapt to changes.

Referencing a study by researchers in Taiwan, the author pointed out that not only did open skill exercisers have faster reaction times, but, they also showed greater mental “efficiency.” In other words, “the open-skill athletes used less brainpower to do the same thing than the closed-skill exercisers did.”

If you are looking for some inspiration, here are a few “open skill sports” to consider:

  • Tennis
  • Fencing
  • Racquetball
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Volleyball
  • Table Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Boxing
  • Hockey

Now is the Time to Invest in Your Health

I love challenging aging stereotypes. At the same time, there are certain unavoidable truths about life after 60. One of the most important is that:

The longer you wait, the less likely you will be to make healthy changes in your life.

It is possible to start a new sport at any age – but, the younger you are, the easier it is to get moving.

You may not be overly concerned about your brain health now, but, trust me, in 20 years, you will thank yourself for making healthy lifestyle choices in your 60s. So, what are you waiting for? Why not pick up a sword and start swinging?

What “open skill sport” have you always wanted to learn? Are you curious about fencing? Or, do you perhaps want to learn Aikido or Karate? What else are you doing to invest in your brain health? Please join the conversation.


Here’s an interview that I recorded with Dr. Medina on the topic of brain health for older adults. I hope that you find it useful and inspiring.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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