If you’re like most people, you probably already realize the importance of physical exercise for maintaining good health. However, you may not think about how the brain also needs regular exercise. Just as your heart, lungs and other vital organs need exercise, so do does your brain.
Consider how the human brain reaches its peak performance from ages 16 through 25. Regardless of your age, you can still improve your cognitive health by exercising your brain. Besides not understanding the importance of exercising the brain, many people don’t know the best mental exercises. Here are some of the main advantages of exercising your brain, along with the most effective types of cognitive exercises.
Basic Benefits of Brain Exercises
There are several advantages of cognitive exercises. One of the main perks is the preservation of new brain cells. Although numerous cells are produced in the body, about half of them die within a period of one to two weeks, following their creation. Fortunately, studies have shown that exercising the brain can result in rescuing most of the new brain cells that are generated, so they don’t die.
Another benefit, especially for older people, is a delay in cognitive decline. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it’s even more critical that you consistently exercise your brain as doing so can help in delaying the onset of symptoms. What’s more, one study that was done revealed that training the brain can be beneficial, even after the onset of dementia.
How to Exercise the Brain: Best Mental Exercises
The best brain exercises involve more than just playing simple games. When choosing brain exercises, select ones that are innovative and complex. When you do something different, you’re increasing brain neuroplasticity. You could learn new skills, such as:
- Study a new language.
- Learn how to play a musical instrument.
- Learn sign language.
- Learn to use your weaker hand. For example, if you’re right-handed, work at using your left hand for writing or holding eating utensils.
- Learn new games, such as bridge or chess.
- Take adult education classes offered at local community centers.
- Do challenging crossword puzzles.
- Practice computer games as they’re excellent for improving cognitive abilities, particularly in older people.
- Do mind games. They’re not only fun, but they can also challenge the brain. These are games that force you to think, remember and organize information.
- Rather than using a calculator, do math mentally, in your head.
- Study a map of a state or country and then try drawing it from memory.
- Test recall skills, such as making a list of items and memorizing them.
- Learn new hobbies such as painting, crocheting and other ones involving fine-motor skills.
- Make an effort to learn peoples’ names.
Considerations and Warnings
- Decide what’s most important. For example, determine top priorities, such as if you need help in decision-making skills, learning new skills or improving short-term memory.
- Keep in mind that your circumstances and age can play a role in setting priorities, which can entail making adjustments in your routine.
- Look for mental exercises that are engaging as well as suited for your specific goals.
- Be sure any brain exercise you’re considering offers motivation. One way to make a mental exercise more motivating is by getting another person involved. Consider that competition can also strengthen your mental abilities.
- Physical exercise also causes a significant increase in new neurons during workouts. Therefore, it’s best have a combination of both physical and mental skills.
- Eating healthy is another way to improve your brain’s health.