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Brain workouts - for a fit brain

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Keeping your mind active, helps prevent your thinking skills from declining. Research provides evidence that games, puzzles and learning new skills help to improve memory, reasoning and processing speed.

The size of your brain reduces with age, along with the size of your brain cells and the number of connections between them, causing a slow decline in cognitive function. Regularly keeping your mind active may help to reduce the risk of brain cell damage, support healthy nerve cell function and strengthen brain cell connections.

Try these mental exercises to give your brain a daily workout:

  • Make a new recipe - cooking engages multiple senses - taste, smell, sight, and hearing and exercises multiple parts of your brain at once.

  • Add things up in your head - practice adding up sums n your head rather than using a calculator or writing it down. This is an even better mental workout if you combine this with walking at the same time.

  • Learn a new craft or teach someone - such as knitting, crocheting, weaving, painting or drawing - this helps make new connections in your brain and these skills also help maintain and improve your fine motor skills.

  • Do a puzzle - jigsaws, shape puzzles, lego puzzles - these help exercise your visual, spatial and reasoning skills.

  • Test your recall - improve your memory by trying to remember your grocery list, draw a map of how to get somewhere, or write down five things you noticed about someone you just met (like hair colour, eye colour, name, age, where they live, what they do).

  • Learn a new language - learning new words in another language exercises your listening, hearing and processing skills, as well as making new connections.

  • Learn to play a song - learning to play a song on a musical instrument also exercises your listening, hearing and processing skills.

  • Do a crossword - crosswords help to expand your vocabulary and build new connections, as well as exercise your recall and reasoning skills.

  • Play a card game - playing cards helps to exercise your recall and reasoning skills.

In addition to brain workouts, regular aerobic exercise also helps reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, which assists with the healthy functioning of brain cells. Physical exercise can also reduce stress and anxiety, which contribute to cognitive decline and impairment of memory and learning.

Of course, looking after your brain health also means maintaining your intake of nutritious wholefoods, reducing your risk of inflammation by limiting your intake of refined and ultra-processed foods, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Information sources

  • Schultz, S. A., Larson, J., Oh, J., Koscik, R., Dowling, M. N., Gallagher, C. L., Carlsson, C. M., Rowley, H. A., Bendlin, B. B., Asthana, S., Hermann, B. P., Johnson, S. C., Sager, M., LaRue, A., & Okonkwo, O. C. (2015). Participation in cognitively-stimulating activities is associated with brain structure and cognitive function in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 9(4), 729–736.

  • Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, 2012, 13.

  • Park, D. C., Lodi-Smith, J., Drew, L., Haber, S., Hebrank, A., Bischof, G. N., & Aamodt, W. (2014). Older Adults: The Synapse Project. Psychol Sci, 25(1), 103–112.

  • Godman, H. (2014). Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Health Publishing.

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