You might think the internet is just a vast and empty place to waste a lot of time.
By the time you’re done checking the news… reading your Facebook or Nextdoor feed… and maybe finishing a sudoku puzzle… an entire hour has disappeared.
But new research shows how that “lost hour” wasn’t so lost after all. You don’t have to feel guilty anymore about spending too much time fiddling around on your phone or computer.
In fact, in many ways, it’s a vital form of “exercise.”
Because it turns out spending time on the web can be a sort of workout for your brain that may help:
- SLOW cognitive decline
- SIDESTEP the onset of dementia
- AVOID Alzheimer’s disease
Yes, you really could be getting significant brain benefits from hitting the “like” button on pics of your grandchildren, ordering a pair of shoes, and watching a video of a goat doing something ridiculous.
How the NET could help fight cognitive decline
You see, our brains have a certain “use it or lose it” capacity. As we age, it’s not uncommon to lose touch with folks and withdraw a bit. Distance from family and losing or changing relationships with friends can do that.
But if you don’t engage enough and avoid doing activities that challenge your brain… spending most of your time doing passive things like watching television… you’re far more likely to suffer from faster cognitive decline.
On the other hand, folks who engage with friends, take up hobbies, learn new skills, and play puzzles or otherwise engage their brain tend to stay sharper for longer.
But the jury’s been out on the internet.
Is surfing the net, like TV, a big, empty time-suck that essentially destroys brain cells contributing to cognitive decline?
Or is spending time on the web more like solving puzzles and spending time with friends? Is it an activity that provides the stimulation needed to keep all the gears turning?
The new study shows it’s the second one. Seniors who spend more time online in retirement are more likely to ace word recall tests, a key measure of cognitive ability and memory.
Boost brain performance by surfing the web
Here’s how the test works: Researchers give you a list of 10 words and then ask you to repeat as many as you can right away. Then, they wait 5 minutes and see how many you still remember.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, you’d be surprised how that second part can trip people up (even younger folks). But the volunteers who spent more time online remembered more words on that test.
Women get the biggest cognitive benefit, it appears. In the new study, the web-surfing ladies remembered an average of 2.37 more words than older women who didn’t go online.
While guys who spent time online remembered roughly one extra word compared to men who didn’t surf the net.
The new study didn’t look at what people were specifically doing online to reap those benefits. But it’s likely if you’re JUST watching videos, it’s not much better than watching TV.
Some videos are fine, of course. But be sure to mix things up, so you’re doing more engaging things, as well.
Try writing emails or posts to friends and loved ones. Read about new and interesting topics. Engage with an online community about a shared hobby or interest. And of course, you can do some online puzzles too.
These and other online activities can help keep the mental gears turning so your brain stays sharp, and you reduce your risk for cognitive decline. Just don’t spend too much time online and skip real-world engagements.
Get out each day. Enjoy the fresh air and sun and engage with real-world friends and neighbors for even bigger cognitive benefits and improvements in your overall wellbeing.