Use It or Lose It: Mental Exercises to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Just as we should exercise to keep our bodies strong, we should also challenge ourselves with mental workouts that help keep the brain young and healthy. While there’s no way to prevent aging of the brain altogether, research shows that doing certain brain exercises boosts memory, concentration, and focus, and helps keep your mind sharp as you get older.
 
Today, we’ll look at a few different exercises that promote brain health and keep you feeling young in spirit. After all, the familiar adage applies here: Use it or lose it!
 
Pick Your Puzzle
 
Whether it’s a jigsaw, a crossword, or Sudoku, challenging yourself to solve puzzles is a great way to keep your brain sharp—and a lot of fun to boot. Different types of puzzles work different areas of your brain, so it’s a good idea to switch it up now and then. There’s something classic and peaceful about doing the puzzles in your local newspaper with a pen and paper. But if you’re looking for an easy digital fix, The Washington Post compiles all their daily crossword puzzles in one free, online library. This website has billions of free Sudoku puzzles with varying levels of difficulty.
 
Learn a New Language
 
There is a wealth of evidence proving that learning multiple languages provides huge cognitive benefits. Bilingualism promotes memory, creativity, and visual-spatial skills. It also helps you switch mental gears more easily, meaning you can switch between tasks faster and delay the onset of age-related brain decline. The best part is, it’s never too late to reap the cognitive benefits of learning a new language: Researchers insist that you can improve your brain health by becoming a student of Spanish, French, or Mandarin at any stage of life.
 
Bust a Move
 
Yep, that’s right—dancing is good for your brain health as well as your physical health! Well, more specifically, learning new dance moves is. According to the CDC, learning a new dance increases your brain’s processing speed and memory. Now may not be the best time to take a salsa or ballroom dance class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new moves on your own time. Check out this instructional video that is specifically geared toward teaching seniors Latin dancing, or grab your partner and learn the basics of swing.
 
Try a New Hobby
 
Taking up a new hobby or skill is a powerful way to strengthen the connections in your brain and improve memory. Always wanted to learn how to rebuild a vintage car? Curious about decoupage? Now is the time to get started on a new hobby or skill that will not only enrich your life, but also challenge your brain to a workout. With more time on your hands, retirement is a great stage of life to try new things and take up hobbies.
 
Download a Free App
 
There are hundreds of free smartphone apps featuring puzzles, games, and challenges to improve cognitive wellness. For example, the CogniFit Brain Fitness app tracks your progress and tells you which areas are most in need of improvement. BrainHQ, which is available online and via smartphone, asks users to solve problems and adapts the difficulty level based on your individual ability. But beware: The aforementioned apps are backed by real scientific evidence, but there are many apps out there of dubious effectiveness. This article provides a helpful guide for choosing the right ones.