When you go to the gym, you don’t just work on your arms. You work on the whole body. It’s the same with the brain. To keep it sharp, you need to cross-train and work different areas.
Playing games, doing puzzles, visiting with old friends and learning a new language are great ways to exercise the brain. A Mayo Clinic study found that healthy adults who used a computer-based training program to improve brain processing speed and accuracy showed twice the improvement in certain aspects of memory when compared to a control group. Just like going to the gym, though, you have to motivate yourself and dedicate time to maintain good brain health.
Brain fitness software programs offer engaging and stimulating exercises designed to keep the mind sharp. They work on processing speed, memory, visual-spatial skills, planning, selective attention (or ability to focus) and word recall. It’s best to use brain fitness software three to five times a week for about 15-20 minutes each session, if you can. Marbles MindSpring, a new program designed with a team of brain health experts, offers nearly two dozen activities designed to boost and train the brain.
To activate the frontal lobe and boost critical thinking, board games like Telepathy and Wise Alec are excellent. Trivia games such as Kwizniac, Trivial Pursuit and Wits & Wagers activate the hippocampus, which is the memory center of your brain. Listening to cues and recalling facts activate this area. Even an old-fashioned card game, hangman or tic tac toe can give the brain a boost. What’s important is that you keep those neurons firing.
Here are a few tips to boost memory from Dr. Cynthia Green, memory expert at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York:
1. Teacher, teacher. Name all your teachers from elementary school, beginning with kindergarten. Want more? Move on to middle school, then try high school. How about your health teacher?
2. An old camp favorite: Take a word, such as “ love ,” and see how many songs you can think of that use the word in lyrics. Suggestions: Love, Rain, Angel, Girl, Bird, Sun.
3. The List. This is a very powerful exercise to boost memory. Write a list of 10 words, try to remember them and then go about your business for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, see how many words you can remember.
4. Based on the game Geography. Name a place, such as a country, state or city. The next person takes the last letter of that place’s name and has to come up with another place on the map.
5. Flex your verbal skills and your creative juices by writing your autobiography in ten words. Try writing others: your parents, friends or famous people.