Just like your body and muscles, your brain needs challenging activities to stay fit and healthy. Thankfully, exercising the mind can be enjoyable and easy to do on a regular basis. From solving simple problems to complex pursuits, like learning a new language, there are a wide variety of ways to keep your mind sharp. Below, we’ll cover six types of brain training exercises and explain how they help to keep you mentally fit.
Puzzles & Games
Working on puzzles will keep your mental skills – like recall memory, visual-spatial reasoning, computation, and lateral thinking – sharp as you age. In fact, according to a study published in the Archives of Neurology, older adults who kept their brains active with cognitively challenging activities, like games and puzzles, had less Beta-amyloid protein in their brains (thought to be a major indication of Alzheimer’s disease risk). Different types of puzzles, such as jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, and brain teasers, all challenge your brain in different ways – so it’s good to practice a variety of them for well-rounded brain health.
Similarly, board games, card, games, and even video games are excellent brain building activities that promote forward planning, memory, problem-solving skills, and reaction time.
Arts & Crafts
Being creative flexes your brainpower, so regularly working on creative pursuits, like painting, knitting, scrapbooking, and woodworking, can have a lasting impact on mental fitness. Plus, most artistic hobbies work well as group activities. Joining a hobby club at your local community center or adult day health center is a great way to train your brain and enjoy the benefits of socialization as well.
Engaging with music is a terrific mental exercise. Playing an instrument requires timing and concentration, learning new lyrics stimulates your memory building, and singing can increase blood flow to your brain. Like arts and crafts, making your own music flexes your creative muscles – and “jam sessions” with your fellow musicians can be a fun social activity.
Cooking or baking (and eating the results) engages all five of your senses, each of which stimulates different parts of the brain. You can bolster your focusing skills and hone your senses by closing your eyes and trying to identify ingredients by taste, texture, and smell. Challenging yourself with new recipes also gives you a mental workout that requires planning, hand-eye coordination, short-term memory, and using your judgement.
Writing by hand or typing is another brain training activity that will also keep your vocabulary and communications skills in top shape. Whether you keep a daily journal, write stories or poems, or send letters to loved ones, your memory, creativity, and concentration can all get a workout through writing.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with any of the activities above – that’s great! Nothing engages your brain power and improves cognitive aging quite like learning something new. So get out there, challenge your mind, and have fun!