Eating healthy and exercising regularly may not always be fun, but the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle are many. Recently, researchers at York University gave us one more reason to get off the couch and put down the chips, suggesting that a good diet and regular exercise may actually be able to delay and possibly prevent the onset of dementia.

The study, which was published online in the Journal of Public Health, Oxford University Press, found that eating more than 10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily was linked to better cognitive functioning in individuals of normal weight, or who were slightly overweight. However, when moderate exercise was added, volunteers who ate less than five servings still reported better cognitive functioning.

"Factors such as adhering to a healthy lifestyle including a diet that is rich in essential nutrients, regular exercise engagement, and having an adequate cardiovascular profile all seem to be effective ways by which to preserve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline," said lead researcher Alina Cohen, Science Mag reported.

For their study, the team looked at cross-sectional data of 45,522 participants, age 30 to 80+, from the 2012 annual component of the Canadian Community Health Survey. This included participants of all genders and body types, and it soon became clear that there was a connection between exercise, high fruit and vegetable diets, and retaining cognitive function.

According to the researchers, their findings suggest that we do not have to accept cognitive decline as part of getting older, and can take active steps to preserve our mental abilities as we grow older.

In addition, other research has suggested that healthy diet and exercise is not the only way to protect our brains as we age. Having a good social circle, and sharing simple conversation with others, may help to improve cognitive function; maintaining this social circle as we age could make the benefits last even longer. In addition, playing mind-challenging games, such as puzzles, have also been shown to improve cognition.

Source: Cohen A, Ardern CI, Baker J. Physical activity mediates the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and cognitive functioning: a cross-sectional analysis. Journal of Public Health . 2016

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