Do you know a neighbor, friend or relative who is over 80 and yet seemingly has the mind of a 25-year-old? These folks remember everything, still take courses, follow politics, and read voraciously. What’s their secret? It could be partly genetics, partly the result of healthy diet (read: Why You Have to Feed Your Brain). It may also be that these people are constantly exercising their brains. Research shows that the brain needs a work out just as much as the body. If you want your brain to remain agile and fit, you’ve got to give it something to do.
Giving your brain exercise could boost memory and intelligence, promote clear thinking, and help protect against dementia. It has been well documented through medical research that aging is linked with declines in a number of cognitive functions. The good news is that a growing body of research also shows that these age-related cognitive declines are actually reversible through cognitive training and exercise programs.
Finding ways to stretch and exercise your brain is essential to having a long and productive life and one that will remain ultimately meaningful for you. With that in mind, here are five exercises aimed at protecting and boosting your brain power as you age.
1. Puzzles. You can do a traditional puzzle, but puzzles come in many different forms. There are word, number, visual and logic puzzles. Give each of them a try and figure out which ones are fun for you. If you don’t enjoy one type of puzzle, keep looking until you find one that’s interesting and challenging.
2. Riddles. Remember how Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit” saves his life by solving riddles? Well, you can save your brain by giving a few a try. Riddles can be simple or very difficult. Start with some easy ones and progress towards the more challenging ones.
3, Board Games. You played them as a kid, now it’s time to bring them out again. Board games can engage many parts of your brain, including those responsible for reasoning, decision-making, and even memory. No longer do you just have to play checkers or “Monopoly.” There is a huge variety of games to choose from.
4. Don’t like traditional games? How about figuring out some optical illusions? They can be surprisingly challenging and can engage your brain and visual processing skills at the same time. Optical illusions also give a workout to the parts of your brain responsible for creativity.
5. Word problems can exercise the parts of your brain responsible for logic, reasoning and creativity. Translating words into numbers that will give you the answer you are seeking can give your brain a real workout.