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Toowong Tennis Old Dogs is much more than just exercise

Ted with partner Jo, Peter and Rob at End of 2018 Drinks.

I would like to continue with some important information, that is laid out in the book Brain Rules for Ageing Well by Dr John Medina.

One thing that I really appreciated by joining our Toowong Tennis Group was the friendship and camaraderie. Also, it has been supported by new members when they first come to play, they have stated that the group has welcomed them as part of the group immediately. This should be considered an important part of the group and the book says “Social Interactions are like vitamins and minerals for ageing brains, with ridiculously powerful implications.” Even socialising over the internet provides benefits.

This has been supported by several researchers such as:

  • A set of studies established a solid correlation between social interactions and cognition.

Researcher Bryan James, an epidemiologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Centre, assessed the typical cognitive function and social interactivity of 1,140 seniors without dementia. He scored their social interactivity, then measured their rate of global cognitive decline over a twelve-year period. For the group that socialised the most, the rate of cognitive decline was 70 % less than those who socialised the least.

  • One famous study looked at rates of memory decline in social isolates versus social butterflies.

This study examined 16,600 people over 6 years. Memory decline of the social butterflies was half of the shut-ins. A flurry of other findings confirmed a robust correlation between social interactions and cognitive health.

  • Another study measured people’s baseline cognition, introduced some form of socialisation, then remeasured cognition.

One intervention showed a cognitive boost in processing speed and working memory with as little as ten minutes of social interaction.

Some interesting points made in the book are:

1. The interactions don’t have to be within a long-term relationship, and they don’t necessarily refer to the number of friends one has.

2. Researchers refer to “positive social interactions” and it occurs with the release of dopamine in the brain.

3. The more positive social interactions you have, the lighter is the load or the effect of stress on your body’s capability, including brain capability, through time.

4. The more stress you encounter, the greater the damage.

5. Less stress is important particularly for the immune system. The immune system naturally becomes compromised as you age, but the more stressed you are, the greater the risk you run of weakening parts of the immune system.

6. “Those elderly folks who get out and interact and spend more time with people during cold/flu season actually get fewer colds and illnesses than those who spend most of their time alone.”

7. One of the reasons why social interactions are so good for you is that they take so much energy to maintain, consistently giving your brain a bona fide workout.

What about the digital world?

The modern way of life which begs the question “Does the social interaction have to be in person?” One experiment involved people eighty years and older, measuring a baseline for executive function (EF) skills and an aspect of language ability. The researchers got baseline EF scores, then installed a video-chat program for each person and proceeded to hold conversations with these people, averaging 30 mins per day for 6 weeks. Four and a half months later, their brains were retested, and the researchers observed large improvements in both executive function and language skills. The scores leapfrogged over controls who spoke for 30 minutes on the phone.

What’s the secret to a good interaction for your brain?

It’s the willingness to consistently take the other person’s point of view, actively seeking to understand a different perspective.

What does all this mean to the Toowong Tennis Old Dogs?

By belonging to a group like our tennis group and socialising and interacting more, we are not only exercising our bodies but also our brains. It was interesting reading some of the history of our group, and it was stated that in the earlier days, after tennis there were drinks for a short while to end the tennis session at a club bar. This has been dropped from the tennis activity, which I think is a real shame. This is where the brain gets its exercise and my feelings are that even if it was the last or first Monday of the month, we give a half hour to go to the Regetta or somewhere for a drink and socialising? We will be holding our socialising event with partners hopefully in the next couple of months and I felt our end of year drinks had a great feeling to it, and it was great to meet several partners of the players.

But another point I should raise here, is the importance of interaction. It is important not to close down our minds and not learn anything new. Learning new things will keep us younger. So when it comes to socialising, there is no better way, then through digital media and therefore, get involved in your web site, write articles or enter pictures on forum, but get involved as it only helps you in the long run. If you need help in how to do things, just ask, I am there to assist.

Ian, SM, Don & Bazza after a great game on a Thursday Morning.

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