Continuing education can help a person advance their career or learn new skills, but it is also good for minds and bodies. A recent study showed that even seniors 80 years old and older who stayed cognitively active were more than twice as unlikely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as those who didn’t exercise their brains as lifelong learners.
Mental stimulation in the form of continuing education can be part of the cognitive activity that staves off dementia, and it starts with a lifelong commitment to continue learning which becomes such a strong habit, it isn’t broken later in life.
Non-Work Benefits of Continuing Education
The brain really is a “use it or lose it” organ. Brain studies show that certain parts of the brain shrink without regular usage, including the parts that deal with memory and problem-solving. When you stop learning, the blood flow to your brain eventually lessens, and inflammation and plaque buildup can occur.
When you’re learning new things, the benefits will spill over from better hard and soft skills at work into your non-work life as your brain responds better to all of life’s demands, from working out an optimal budget to improving your relationships to pursuing an interesting hobby. All of these non-work activities and aspects of life are enhanced by the brain exercise continuing education gives.
Formal Education vs. Informal
While it isn’t impossible to get the same brain-boosting benefits from informal education as it is from taking courses, formal continuing education courses are structured in such a way that brain benefits are nearly guaranteed, as long as students participate and engage with the material. Many people also have good intentions about self-teaching but fail to follow through the way they would in a course that takes place at certain times and places.
It’s also much less likely that you would teach yourself the same valuable skills as a continuing education course taught by an instructor who often has decades of experience in the skills you need, as well as valuable workplace experience that they use to determine which skills will have the most benefit for the workplace.
A mix of formal courses and informal educational activities like discussions with colleagues, reading books and doing research online may give the greatest benefit by strengthening the brain in different ways and meeting different educational needs. Not only could you advance in your career, but you could also reap benefits in your personal life that may be even better. And educational activities also offer the benefits of social interaction, something that also contributes to sustained overall well-being.
Continuing education courses can be a great way to continue learning new skills as well as socially interacting with people who have similar interests. CCSU offers continuing education courses in many careers as well as soft skills and recreational interests. View open courses to see what you might enjoy learning about.