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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

exercising the brain

I would not make a good nun. Wimples and self-sacrifice do not suit me. But if I had to be a nun, I would live in Kentucky among the School Sisters of Notre Dame. And there I would teach and do the crossword. This is because, unlike the nuns themselves, I am highly averse to meeting my Maker. And the good Sisters of Kentucky have unlocked the secret to living a longer, healthier life.

Almost 30 years ago, an academic called David Snowden began a study which, imaginatively, is now known as the Nun Study. He chose to focus on the sisters because they all have very similar lifestyles. As they age, however, some choose to stop their teaching duties, while others continue in the classroom. Those who continue to be mentally active live, on average, four years longer than those who do not. Their brains show 40 per cent more synapses and thicker myelin insulation, which is vital to brain health.