Mix It Up

Cognitive Science


It’s easy to fall into a regular routine. Wake up, go to work, commute home, go to bed. For many people, routine is a necessity. Yet, research suggests that mixing up daily routines in small ways can support cognitive function.

Stimulating the brain with engaging activities can protect brain health. One group of researchers wanted to know if the diversity of types of activities impacted cognitive function. Over 700 people were asked how often they participated in 7 daily activities: paid work, chores, leisure activities, time spent with children, physical activity, formal volunteering, and giving informal help. The same participants were questioned again 10 years later. People who increased the diversity of their activities over the decade had higher scores on measures of cognitive function than those who didn’t.

What’s the connection between this and your cognitive health? It may have something to do with adaptability. When the brain is exposed to new environments and enriching activity, it may become more adaptable. Diversity of activity is also likely to engage you in social situations, another brain-stimulating factor that can protect against cognitive decline. Participating in diverse activities challenges your brain by shifting it between demands, tasks, and reasoning, all related to improved executive function.

References

  • Lee, S., Charles, S. T., & Almeida, D. M. (2020). Change is Good for the Brain: Activity Diversity and Cognitive Functioning Across Adulthood. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, gbaa020. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbaa020