Turning off Waze or your favorite GPS app and using an old-fashioned map may be the best way to fight Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reveals [studyfinds.org]:
Researchers at McMaster University say orienteering, an outdoor sport that exercises the mind and body through navigation puzzles, can train the brain and stave off cognitive decline. The aim of orienteering is to navigate between checkpoints or controls marked on a special map. In competitive orienteering, the challenge is to complete the course in the quickest time.
For older adults, scientists say the sport — which sharpens navigational skills and memory — could become a useful intervention measure to fight off the slow decline related to dementia onset. They believe the physical and cognitive demands of orienteering can stimulate parts of the brain our ancient ancestors used for hunting and gathering.
The human brain evolved thousands of years ago to adapt to harsh environments by creating new neural pathways, the McMaster team explains. Those same brain functions are not always necessary today, however, thanks to GPS apps and food being readily available.
Unfortunately, the team says these skills fall into a “use it or lose it” situation.
[...] People who participated in orienteering displayed better spatial navigation [studyfinds.org] and memory skills, suggesting that adding elements of wayfinding into their daily routines benefited them over their lifetime.