Harvard Men's Health Watch

Back to school

Taking a class to explore a subject or learn a new skill may increase cognitive ability and slow mental aging.

Image: Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock

Active aging involves more than moving your body. You also need to move your brain. "When you exercise, you engage your muscles to help improve overall health," says Dr. Ipsit Vahia, director of geriatric outpatient services for Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. "The same concept applies to the brain. You need to exercise it with new challenges to keep it healthy."

A fun way to do this is to sharpen your No. 2 pencils and go back to school. "New brain cell growth can happen even late into adulthood," says Dr. Vahia. "The process of learning and acquiring new information and experiences, like through structured classes, can stimulate that process."

Adult education

About 17% of adults over 35 are enrolled at a four-year college or university or a community college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And because many campuses now offer free or discounted tuition for seniors (with no earned credits), there are more opportunities than ever for older adults to explore a variety of subjects and interests.

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