We’re experiencing rising levels of dementia in an aging population. Along with that, the need for more health care and hospice care is increasing. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by 2050 to 13.8 million, at an annual cost of $1.2 trillion. This is in large part why good health at every age is necessary—not only to enrich your life now, but to increase your chances of growing older with optimal health.

Aging does not have to imply widespread decline; there are ways of remaining in top shape in your later years. One 2011 study discovered that bilingual patients developed Alzheimer’s disease four years later than monolingual patients. Researchers also discovered that learning a new language helps fight off cognitive decline regardless of what age you begin. Mentally challenging yourself in such a manner has many positive effects.

Another skill to acquire to help fight dementia is playing music. If you don’t play an instrument, learning one has been shown to stave off cognitive decline. If you are already a skilled (or even mediocre) player, the continuation of performance and practice is a powerful way to stay sharp and focused. Playing music helps with both memory and motor control.

And, of course, there’s movement. A recent study showed that for seniors (aged 65-85), working out promotes stable levels of choline, a metabolite that is a marker of Alzheimer’s, while a control group that only stretched but did not practice cardiovascular exercise experienced increased levels of choline. Cardio has also been shown to increase brain volume, and weight training has been proven to be as good for the brain as the body.

One common thread linking all of these is congruent with this month’s theme at 24 Life: Variety is essential to optimal health. Whether adding yoga to your running routine or picking up a kettlebell to load your muscles, constantly challenging your brain with new movements or routines is key to staying healthy for the long road ahead.

Musical variety

For this month’s playlist I challenged my own boundaries by seeking out a number of artists in genres I don’t default to. I have my go-to artists for home life, but each format that I teach—yoga, studio cycling and kettlebell/ViPR combo—requires its own soundtrack, so I’m always seeking beats and lyrics for my classes to connect to and be inspired by.

Hip-hop is not new to my playlists—I’ve been listening to it since the late ’80s—and the merging of house and rap is also not new, but I don’t spend as much time researching it as I do the classic hip-hop era of the nineties or deep house. So this month the playlist is filled with swag house and driving hip-hop to power you through your workouts. Muscle up, indeed.

Not that all these artists are new to me. I’m a longtime fan of Run the Jewels and Jay Z, for example, and Jay’s new single with DJ Khaled has a punchy rhythm and plenty of swagger. Logic has quite an arsenal of beats and rhymes, as he exhibits on his recent “44 More,” while it would be a serious oversight not to include something from the “Black Panther” soundtrack. Kendrick and The Weeknd elegantly stretched their boundaries for this gem of a collection.

Bassnectar has been in the game for a while now, but the track kicking off this set, “Speakerboxx,” had to be included after recently blowing up one of my spin classes. He’s got a knack for solid beats, as does DJ Snake with his recent, “Magenta Riddim,” reminding me of the classic era where India and Jamaica collide. This mash-up of cultures has been popular in riddims for decades. Snake can get a bit pop for my taste, so it was nice to hear his head nod to a vintage sound.

Speaking of vintage, I’m digging the Codes take on the Soul II Soul classic, “Back to Life.” I’ve also loved Sam Spiegel’s “Mutant Brain” since it was commissioned by his brother Spike Jonez’s video for a French perfume company. I’m not a huge fan of commercials in general, but this one is exceptional; actress Margaret Qualley’s performance is stunning.

Plenty of upbeat house tracks to keep your workout bumping, including great tracks I recently discovered by Ben Remember, SUMR CAMP, Croatia Squad and a funky jam by Alec Troniq. The set closes with a fun song by Los Angeles duo TiRon & Ayomari, a local staple who combine a variety of genres in one of the more intriguing blends of hip-hop and songwriting I’ve heard in recent years.

March playlist

Photo credit: Maxime Bhm, Unsplash