Langa says that walking even 15 to 30 minutes daily can help prevent diabetes and heart disease while improving your mental health, outlook, and mood. “There’s a noticeable change if someone can just get off the couch and get into a regular physical routine,” he says. Yeh adds that exercise can reduce the risk of dementia or delay its onset.
Tips: Yeh says an activity such as a walking book group, where you discuss your latest read while taking a stroll, can engage your mind and your body simultaneously. Tai chi is another option, one Langa says is beneficial both cognitively and physically. Regular practice of tai chi can also improve your balance and help prevent falls, which can be the beginning of serious health issues for older people.
4. Find challenges in new activities
One of the best ways to boost your mental health is to work your brain the same way you exercise your muscles—which includes breaking up your routine. Taking on a new task makes your mind think differently. “If you don’t use your mind, you lose it,” Yeh says.
Tips: Try learning how to play a musical instrument or tackling a new language.
5. Reduce stress
Stress increases the levels of inflammation in the body, which can damage the brain, Langa says. “There’s reasonable scientific grounding to say if you can address anxiety and depression, that will decrease the risk for [mental] declines with age,” he adds. Learning to lead a more balanced life where you stay focused and present is key. “Stress reduction, along with exercise, can be very healthy,” Yeh says.
Tips: Stress busters can include activities such as meditation or yoga.
6. Eat healthily
A healthy diet “is good for your body and your mind,” Yeh says. Eating right has been connected to a lower risk of diabetes and hypertension, and vitamin E may help protect nerve cells.
Tips: Yeh recommends the Mediterranean diet, which limits red meat and emphasizes plant-based foods, fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil.