Boost your Mental Sharpness by Exercising your Brain

by Roba Whiteley, Executive Director, Together Rx Access

While some say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” it may be wise to try. As we age, our brains work slower – sometimes leading to forgetful moments or increased instances of memory loss. Just like the rest of the body, it is important to exercise the brain to keep it fit and healthy. This means doing brain-stimulating exercises or simply trying new tasks that challenge your brain.

A study in the “New England Journal of Medicine” found that mentally stimulating hobbies like reading, playing board games and doing crossword puzzles may prevent or minimize memory loss in the aging population. Seniors who reported doing these activities about four days a week were two-thirds less likely to get dementia compared with those who do them once a week or less.

Brain Exercise

Keep your mind sharp and learn something new with mind-building hobbies. In addition, medical experts suggest that mind calisthenics can help people of all ages sharpen their brains. Here are a few exercises to keep your mind healthy.

Learn another language. One study found that, among people who did eventually get dementia, those who were bilingual throughout their lives developed the disease three to four years later. Brain imaging scans showed that switching between two languages helps exercise the part of the brain that performs more difficult intellectual tasks.

Learn a new word every day. Try to start off every morning with a word of the day. Then, make sure to use the word in conversation throughout the day.

Play games. A study published in “Neurology” found that engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as crossword puzzles or board and card games, was associated with better cognitive function.

Take up an instrument. Growing evidence shows that music can increase cognitive function and brain stimulation in adults. Research shows that learning an instrument boosts several areas of the brain, literally enhancing the brain’s structure, even in people over the age of 65.

Drive a new route to work. Doing something unusual to break up your daily routine is a simple way to challenge your mind. This can be as easy as driving to work in a way that makes you think about the route.

Volunteer. Helping others can also stimulate brain function. A recent study of a senior volunteer program, in which older adults helped elementary school children with reading and classroom behavior for 15 hours per week, showed that participants had significant improvements in memory and problem solving.

Get physically active. Research shows that physical exercise can also benefit your brain. Aerobic exercise, like running, bike riding or walking, increases your heart rate, resulting in increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain – making it function more effectively.