Staying Sharp While Aging: It Has a Price

Exercising the brain can stem tide of memory loss
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2008 5:25 PM CDT
United States' Dara Torres celebrates winning the silver medal in the women's 4x100-meter medley. Torres, 41, says that her body needs more recovery time now than when she was younger.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Fighting the aging process is more about hard work than anti-wrinkle cream and hair dye, Jonah Lehrer writes in the Washington Post. The issue for most of us is not to dance like Madonna or swim like US Olympian Dara Torres; it's to remember names and places and find the car keys. And that requires exercise—for the brain. "The brain is a learning machine, and like all machines it needs to be continually maintained," one professor told Lehrer.

Weakened brain communication hampers memory as we age, but one memory-based software program turned back the cognitive effects of aging in 93% of subjects. Studies also show that the extra tissue of active brains slows the death of much-needed cells. "If we put in the effort—and it takes lots of effort—our cells will find a way to stay fit," Lehrer writes. "Nobody ever said aging gracefully was easy."