By second grade, you pretty much had basic arithmetic under your belt. You could add up apples and subtract shoes with the best of them.
But researchers at Duke University Medical Center have proposed a strange mathematical equation that’s bound to throw you for a loop.
I like to call it the Brain Age Equation. And it goes a little something like this…
3 + 1 = 10.
Now as strange as that looks, scientists say this formula could shave almost 10 years off of brain age.
The number three represents how many times a week you’ve got to get up and get moving. (The more the better, of course.)
And when three days of moderate exercise (3) is combined with a healthy diet (1), you can essentially roll back the virtual age on the brain by nearly a full decade.
Oh, and don’t panic.
We’re not talking about having to turn into a gym rat doing pushups and pumping iron all day long. In fact, a brisk walk, a spin around the park on your bike, or swimming laps could be all it takes to start rolling back brain age.
I’ll explain how it works in just a moment. But first, let’s take a closer look at the Duke study that uncovered this powerful equation.
Better brain function is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4… 10
It’s perfectly normal to start worrying about your memory and cognition as you age. Blanking on the name of a familiar friend or forgetting an appointment can leave you feeling worried that you’re starting to “lose it” for days after.
But according to that Duke study I’ve been telling you about, you can relax a little. Because within just six short months from now, you could wake up with a brain that is, essentially, close to 10 years “younger” than it is right now.
And best of all, using the Brain Age Equation, getting that “new and improved brain” can be a breeze.
For the randomized trial, the Duke scientists recruited a group of older adults who had perfected their couch-potato skills. All of the volunteers had either high blood pressure or other heart risks.
None of the participants had dementia. But they all were starting to suffer from those worrying brain hiccups we all dread as we age.
They were starting to have some trouble with things like concentrating, planning, and decision-making. Or what docs call age-related cognitive decline
Roll back brain age with diet and exercise
At the start of the study, the volunteers took a variety of tests to measure their cognitive skills. And despite having an average age of 65, the group’s brain age was around 93.
A treadmill stress test was done on each volunteer to evaluate overall fitness and heart health. And each participant had a dietary assessment to find out what his eating habits were like before the study.
Next, the volunteers were then randomly assigned to one of four groups.
Healthy diet group: These folks started eating a heart-healthy diet that slashed garbage fats, junk salts, and sugary sweets from the menu. They filled up on more fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains instead. But they weren’t encouraged to exercise.
Exercise group: The second group wasn’t encouraged to diet. But they started on a regular moderate exercise program. Three days a week, they did a 10-minute warm-up followed by 35 minutes of walking or cycling.
Healthy diet & exercise group: These folks doubled up on the healthy changes. They combined both the heart-healthy diet and the easy, three days a week exercise program. In other words, they followed the 3+1 Brain Age Equation.
Control “couch potato” group: The final group got a 30-minute phone call from a health educator. They received advice on reducing their heart risk, but they were told to stick to their current diet and exercise routine during the six-month study.
Just 6 months to a younger, healthier brain
The exercise group did see some significant improvements in their executive functioning skills. Which means they had a far easier time planning, reasoning, organizing, and completing tasks.
But after six months, the clear winner was the Brain Age Equation.
The folks who combined three days a week of moderate exercise with a heart-healthy diet ran rings around every other group’s results.
In fact, the combo group measured an average mental age of less than 84. Meaning they’d reversed the clock on their brain age by nearly A DECADE in just half a year.
Six months isn’t long enough to see a measurable bump in regular memory, of course. But if you stick to the Brain Age Equation, the researchers say there’s every reason to believe we’d see improvements in those measurements too.