Back to school: How lifelong learning helps your health


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It’s back-to-school time, and no matter how long you’ve been out of the classroom, fall can be an inspiring season to try something new. Besides beating boredom, hitting the books again comes with benefits for both the mind and body. Which of these pastimes will be your next passion?


Learn an instrument
No need to be the next Jimi Hendrix, or even the next Bieber — just pick up a guitar or clarinet and start playing to reap benefits for your brain. Taking on a new instrument helps make connections between brain cells that aids in other areas of communication, like hearing and speech, studies have found. Musicians have an easier time learning new languages, and an increased awareness of pitch may help musicians decipher a speaker’s emotions in conversation.


Take up chess
Or Sudoku, or even poker — but don’t blame us if you lose big in Atlantic City. Novelty triggers dopamine, researchers have found, which stimulates the creation of new neurons, helping your brain stay healthy. So if you’re an old hand at crossword puzzles, try out a new brain challenge.


School yourself in salsa dance
If you hit the gym and lift weights every day for few months, your brain and your muscles are probably pretty tired of it. Working out in the same way all the time gets us into both a mental and physical rut, according to the American Council on Exercise, so you stop seeing results. If you’re a runner, try interspersing your run with periods of walking, jogging and sprinting. Or get into a new workout entirely — dance especially has tons of brain benefits because it connects different parts of the brain, helping to ward off dementia.