Do brain workouts work?

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Think that you're too old to spend time playing games? Nonsense! Just think of it as doing a mental workout.

 

Just like any good exercise regimen, you have to target different areas of the body for the full effect. Physical activity is among the other good habits that support mental acuity and stave off cognitive decline as you get older. Yes, exercising your body enlarges your brain, not just your biceps. As does eating right, including getting enough omega-3s from fish. Here's another easy one to check off the better-brain to-do list: Get plenty of sleep.

Doing word puzzles, playing card games and reading your favorite trashy novels all count as ways to keep your mind active. Write in your journal or email with an old friend. Turn off the TV for a while and have a chat with your next-door neighbor. Simple social interaction might not seem like a mental workout, but spending time with your social network is associated with better health and happiness and less dementia later in life. The same is true of taking part in your favorite hobbies. Not a bad way to work out, huh?

There are a variety of exercises and activities that can successfully work each of the brain’s five major cognitive functions on a daily basis.

Our minds consist of five main cognitive functions:

  • memory
  • attention
  • language
  • visual-spatial skills
  • and executive function

It’s important to challenge, stimulate and effectively exercise all five areas to stay mentally sharp as our brains age. Here are 5 daily brain exercises that can help you do this.

Memory:

  • Listen to a song you don’t know and try to memorize the lyrics.
  • Try showering or getting dressed in the dark.
  • Use your opposite hand to brush your teeth or write.

Attention:

  • Change your route to work.
  • Redecorate your desk.
  • Try to multitask – do simple math while driving or listen to an audio book while jogging.
  • Language:
  • Try reading the whole newspaper.
  • Try learning a new language.
  • Look up a word in the dictionary if you do not know what it means.

Visual:

  • Pick out 5 items and their locations in a room and try to recall them and their locations when you leave the room and try again after 2 hours.
  • Look straight ahead and note everything you can see in front of you and in your peripheral vision. Try to recall everything by writing it down.

Executive Function:

  • Engaging in a conversation boosts your intellectual performance by considering possible comebacks.
  • Playing video games requires strategy and problem-solving to reach a desired outcome.

Other fun brain workouts:

  • Do crossword puzzles
  • Read as much as you can
  • Write something
  • Do large puzzles
  • Pick up a new hobby
  • Build something
  • Eat well and exercise
  • Sleep
  • Change your routine
  • Switch your dominant hand

So what does that mean for you? If you want to be “all there” for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, there's plenty you can do right now to prepare. And just because it has to do with challenging your brain cells doesn't mean it has to feel like homework. Whether you're trying to get your brain back into shape or you just want to keep it as strong as it is now, it's easy to train your brain so break a mental sweat and keep your brain in shape.

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