Last updated on Jun 18th, 2020 at 06:22 am

If youâ??re thinking of starting a new hobby, make it one that will keep your mind sharp. New research has found that when it comes to boosting brain power, not all hobbies are equal.

The research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicates that only certain activities improve cognitive functioning in older adults.

Which hobbies keep the mind sharp?

According to the research, less demanding activities, such as listening to classical music or completing word puzzles, may be enjoyable but probably won’t result in noticeable benefits for an aging mind.

On the other hand, learning a mentally demanding skill, like photography, was found to be beneficial.

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“It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something – it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher, Denise Park, of the University of Texas at Dallas. “When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone.”

Uncovering the secrets to a healthy mind

“We need, as a society, to learn how to maintain a healthy mind, just like we know how to maintain vascular health with diet and exercise,” says Park. “We know so little right now.”

For the study, 221 adults, ages 60 to 90, engaged in a particular type of activity for 15 hours a week over three months.

Some participants were assigned to learn a new skill – digital photography, quilting, or both – which required active engagement and tapped working memory, long-term memory and other high-level cognitive processes.

Other participants were instructed to engage in more familiar activities at home, such as listening to classical music and completing word puzzles. And, to account for the possible influence of social contact, some participants were assigned to a social group that included field trips and entertainment.

Mastering new skills improves memory

At the end of three months, researchers found that those who were productively engaged in learning new skills showed improvements in memory compared to those who engaged in social activities or non-demanding mental activities at home.

“The findings suggest that engagement alone is not enough,” says Park. “The three learning groups were pushed very hard to keep learning more and mastering more tasks and skills. Only the groups that were confronted with continuous and prolonged mental challenge improved.”

So, considering the results of this study, do you think your hobby will help your mind sharp?

If not, itâ??s never too early or too late to learn something new!

Source: Association for Psychological Science via EurekAlert

If you enjoyed this article, read Mental performance of 90-year-olds may be improving and visit Healthy Mind for similar articles.

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