It’s no secret that certain lifestyle activities are associated with better brain and cognitive health. The National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) has published several resources about the connection on its Brain Health hub.
More recently, an educational paper authored by NAN’s Policy & Planning Committee aimed to review evidence and clinical implications related to lifestyle activities associated with promoting brain and cognitive health.
The review in the paper targeted four key lifestyle factors: physical activity and exercise, social engagement, cognitively stimulating activity, and consuming Mediterranean-style diets.
Study authors conducted a critical review of the lifestyle factor literature in those four specific domains. The study contextualized this literature review by translating findings, when possible, into evidence-based recommendations to consider when providing neuropsychological services.
Findings indicated significant current evidence supporting the role of physical activity and exercise, social engagement, cognitively stimulating activity, and consuming Mediterranean-style diets on positive brain and cognitive health outcomes. While some null findings were present in all four areas reviewed, the weight of the evidence supported the notion that engaging in these activities may promote brain and cognitive functioning.
The conclusions of this paper were clear: Clinical neuropsychologists can have confidence in recommending engagement in physical activity, social activity, and cognitively stimulating activity, and adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet to promote brain and cognitive health. At the same time, patients (and laypeople) can have confidence that engaging in physical activity, social activity and cognitively stimulating activity, and adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet can put them in position to improve brain health.
Toward the end of the paper, authors discussed limitations in existing lifestyle factor research and future directions to enhance the existing evidence base, including additional research with historically underrepresented groups and individuals with neurological conditions.