Cognitive abilities can be fortified by taking part in diverse activities.

Regularly engaging in diverse activities throughout adulthood can help people retain cognitive functioning abilities in old age, according to a new study from the University of South Florida.

Investigators focused on seven common activities: paid work, time with children, chores, leisure, physical activity, volunteering, and giving informal help. Lead author Soomi Lee, Ph.D., and colleagues reviewed two sets of data from 732 people ranging between the ages of 34 and 84 that was collected by the National Survey of Daily Experiences. For eight consecutive days, participants were asked if they partook in those activities and scored on an activity diversity score that captures both the breadth (variety) and evenness (consistency) of activity participation. The same group was queried 10 years later.

Those who increased activity diversity over the decade exhibited higher levels of cognitive functioning compared to those who maintained lower or decreased activity diversity.

“Results support the adage to ‘use it or lose it’ and may inform future interventions targeting the promotion of active lifestyles to include a wide variety of activities for their participants,” Lee added. The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.