Like the rest of your body, your brain needs exercise to keep fit.
Most research on brain health can only show that certain behaviors are associated with beneficial results. In other words, it appears that people who do crossword puzzles have better memories. But scientists can’t prove that doing crossword puzzles is responsible. People who do puzzles might have better memories because of other habits or their genetics. Still, it’s worth doing all you can to stay clear-headed, incisive, clever and quick.
1. Be a social butterfly
Research shows that staying socially active helps maintain brain function. If you’re retired and spend time alone, consider a part-time job or volunteer at an organization you support. Join a club — there’s one for everything these days, from aikido to zither playing. (OK, maybe there isn’t one for zither playing — but you could start one.)
2. Solve it
The brain isn’t a muscle, but the more you use it, the better off you’ll be. Crossword puzzles, word-find games, jigsaw puzzles and other games (like cards) are great ways to keep your brain active. See, that weekly poker game is good for more than just gossip.
3. Never stop learning
Attend lectures or take a class on something you’ve always wanted to know more about. Visit museums and art galleries. Reading and listening to the radio are great too — but reading aloud activates more of your brain, so find someone to share a story with you, like those cute grandkids.
4. Move your muscles
Physical exercise helps your heart and lungs — and it may help your brain. You don’t need a high-intensity workout. Brisk walking not only improves heart and lung fitness. It also increases function in certain parts of the brain. Walkers are able to focus on tasks and pay attention better than the folks who don’t go walking.
5. Retrain your brain
Changing your routine uses parts of your brain that are usually quiet. Rearrange your furniture or button your shirt with one hand. Close your eyes before you spread jam on your toast. (You can clean up the mess later.) Move your computer’s mouse so you have to operate it with your other hand.
6. Feed your brain
The old adage that “fish is brain food” may be true. People who eat fish are more likely to maintain memory and other brain functions in older age.