Senior Center

4 Fun Ways to Exercise Your Brain

By Jan Bolder - July 21, 2014

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Although the brain is an organ, it behaves very much like a muscle: if it’s not used, its efficiency goes down. When you’re young, you don’t really notice many decreases in brain power because the amount of neurons you have is enough to compensate, but as you age, it becomes more and more difficult to adjust the balance for lack of use. And with seniors far more likely to suffer from dementia than any other demographic, the importance of exercising your brain is at a high. We give you some of the most fun and effective ways of doing this, and some of them may just surprise you.

Learn a Language

The fastest or best way of learning a language is to immerse yourself in it so you’re forced to use it, but that’s not quite the result we want you to go after. In fact, the actual result of learning a language isn’t what we want you to do, either, but rather just undertake the process of it. The New York Times recently ran an article title , which outlined the writer’s process in trying to learn French. He studied intensely for a year, using resources like the Rosetta Stone, Meetup groups, and French media — and found his hard work barely paid off at all. But what he did notice was his ability to perform in just about every other area had improved dramatically. Learning a language sharpens skills like working memory, inductive reasoning, task switching and sound discrimination, all of which can help a senior’s brain stay efficient longer.

Take up Crosswords

Going back to the New York Times again, their crosswords are the gold standard when it comes to consistency, quality and innovation. Edited by Will Shortz, the New York Times crosswords are at their easiest on Mondays and get progressively more difficult as the week goes on, culminating in a whopper of a crossword on Sundays. The neat thing about NYT crosswords is that while certain patterns appear, it’s rare to find that answers repeat themselves, which forces the crossword solver to go deep in their brain to finish the puzzle. However, if seniors don’t have access to the New York Times, other crosswords can achieve the same effect in the brain. The whole idea of crossword puzzles is to take a whole lot of information and narrow it down into a set number of squares, and requires both short- and long-term memory to excel at them.

Get Out and Socialize

Staying at home by yourself all day, week after week, can start to have a detrimental effect on your mental health. And while we acknowledge that not all seniors thrive on constant socializing, with some preferring to take it easy at home with fewer people around, going out in public with friends has been shown to have a positive effect on the brain. Seniors who socialize regularly enough to form strong ties to their community have less memory loss than isolated seniors, as the seemingly innocuous activities of talking, laughing, listening and thinking go a long way in strengthening the brain. It’s one of the easiest, most fun ways of safeguarding yourself against early memory loss. As well, forming these bonds helps in case anything happens and you need to call on your relationships for assistance.

Exercise and Eat Well

At first glance, exercising and eating well doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with thinking, but there’s a strong link between the two. Exercising gets the blood flowing in your body and increases the efficiency of oxygen circulation, which travels to your brain. This extra boost of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood is like changing the oil on your car: swap out the dirty oil for fresh oil, and the engine runs remarkably smoother. Eating well has much the same benefit, as you’re also literally feeding your brain, too. Give it a good diet of dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, protein and water, and you’ll be surprised at how roaring your brain is to get down to business. It’s a rather sneaky way to exercise your brain, as you don’t even think you’re doing it because eating is such an integral part of everyday activities, but the simplicity is also the beauty of it.

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