The GP's View: Go to the theatre, learn a poem – it will help you to live longer

Learning poetry and engaging with the arts in general, for example, by going to the theatre, can extend your live, research has shown
Dr Martin Scurr

WE’VE all heard of the importance of a balanced diet, plenty of sleep and regular exercise if you want to live a long and healthy life.

But wouldn’t it be great if visits to the theatre or art galleries were part of the recipe for longevity? Well, it seems this could be the case, with research published in the British Medical Journal last month revealing that the more people engage with the arts, the lower their risk of an early death.

The effects were substantial. Men and women aged 50-plus who saw a play, attended the opera or went to a museum, gallery or concert every few months were almost a third less likely to die early than those who never engaged with such activities. Even dabbling in the arts once or twice a year cut the risk of dying early by 14 per cent.

These results can’t be explained away by virtue of culture vultures being wealthier. Rather, it seems the outcome is at least partly due to them being more likely to heed health advice. The outings may also provide exercise, combat loneliness and stimulate the brain.

Another fun and more budget-friendly way to exercise the mind is to learn a piece of poetry.

In broadcaster Gyles Brandreth’s book Dancing By The Light Of The Moon, he encourages us to go back to learning poetry as we did at school. Most of us will feel that we no longer have the memory to do so, but Brandreth, who took the time to interview neuroscience experts at Cambridge University, informs us that the issue isn’t the actual memorising, it’s the recall that is needed afterwards, and recall will improve with practice.

Learning a new poem every week, even just a rude limerick, won’t only exercise the relevant neurological muscles, it will also lift your heart.

What better way of engaging in the arts and extending your life?

© Solo dmg media

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