Certain sports are better for the aging brain than others

If you're looking to keep your brain sharp as you age by participating in sports, you might want to take into account the results of a few recent studies that show some sports are better at preserving the aging brain.

According to these studies, sports that involve "open motor skills" are more effective at improving the function of the aging brain than those that require "closed motor skills". Closed motor skills are those associated with single-player, non-reactive sports, like biking, golf and bowling. The player himself decides when to move and develops his skills in isolation. On the other side of the scale, open motor skills are those which involve reacting to another player, and are exercised by sports like fencing and table tennis. 

Several studies have shown that participating in sports that require open motor skills is a better choice in terms of preserving the accuracy and reaction time of the brain. The quick thinking and reactivity required in these sports serve to keep the brain nimble and agile as people age.

In 2012, an Italian study showed that fencers were better than non-fencers at quickly and accurately pressing a button when shown certain target shapes. Although older fencers had slower reaction times than their younger peers, they had the same level of accuracy and were still faster than non-fencers. Last year, a Taiwanese study came to a similar conclusion: Seniors who regularly participated in open-skill sports had faster reaction times and greater neural efficiency when performing targeting tasks than those who participated in closed-skill sports.

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