You exercise your body to keep it healthy and strong, so why would you skip out on your brain? 

Your brain is fundamental for performing at your best as it’s involved in every action, conscious or unconscious. Just as physical training makes your body stronger and work more efficiently, mental training can do the same for keeping your brain healthy and operating at its best. This is especially important as we age, when the brain naturally decreases in volume and functions like memory can decline. 

Studies have shown that physical exercise can have a positive relationship with almost every part of the human body, and that includes the brain. Learning and memory can be improved, depression and anxiety symptoms can be alleviated, and brain plasticity (the brain’s ability to change and adapt) can be maintained. 

Research suggests that physical exercise, paired with brain exercises such as puzzles or brain teasers, can help your mind stay active and improve cognitive function throughout and into later life. (Don’t worry—you don’t have to do the two things at the same time. Well, unless you really want to!)

Brain teasers for better brain function

If you needed an excuse to take some time out for playing games, then here it is. These fun activities will help protect your memory, improve concentration and ultimately keep your brain happy and healthy.

Jigsaw puzzles

As it turns out, jigsaws call on a number of different actions performed by the brain, like: 

  • Visual perception (recognising shapes, lines and matching patterns)
  • Constructional praxis (assembling the puzzle pieces)
  • Mental rotation (visualising how turning a piece might then fit it with another piece)
  • Cognitive flexibility (switching between different strategies for the best solutions)
  • Perceptual reasoning (developing strategies and plans for how to solve the puzzle)
  • Memory (remembering when a piece matches ones you’ve already sorted)

Phew—for a seemingly straightforward activity, that is a lot going on in your brain! There’s also some indication that working on jigsaws can offer respite from daily stress, allowing you to focus on something methodical, simple and fun. So not only are you working that grey matter, you’re also giving yourself a stress reliever too. 

Learn something new

It might sound obvious that learning a new skill can help to expand your brain’s ability, but you might be surprised that it doesn’t even have to be a major undertaking like learning to play piano, say. Learning a new skill can be as simple as teaching yourself how to work a new gizmo you bought, or taking up embroidery. 

A study into the subject revealed that keeping up cognitively demanding activities boosts memory capabilities in older adults. The same study also found that depending on the skill being learned, other improvements might be experienced—e.g. learning digital photography can improve visual processing. 

Play games, cards or do crossword puzzles

As well as being an opportunity for a social activity (although of course, solitaire is a solo enterprise), playing cards can also be great exercise for the brain.

Research suggests that regular engagement in pastimes like cards, board games or crossword puzzles can help to prevent brain deterioration. In fact, it appears there is a positive correlation between game play, and increased brain volume, enhanced memory and improved strategic thinking.

Variety is the spice of life

Just as eating the same meals day in and day out might get boring, doing the same activities over and over will bore your brain, compared to incorporating a variety of games and activities. The advice is to switch things up every once in a while, try new things, learn new games and develop a wider range of skills to stimulate your brain in more and different ways.

It’s game time!

Protecting and prolonging your brain function is important for your overall health and wellbeing as you age, and being proactive about brain care can have a positive influence on your memory, concentration, thinking and much more. And it isn’t boring either—it’s an excuse to get playing some fun games and learning new things. We call that a win!


Looking for other ways to improve your memory and brain health? Try an alcohol-free challenge today!



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Kawashima R. Mental exercises for cognitive function: clinical evidence. J Prev Med Public Health. 2013;46 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S22-S27. doi:10.3961/jpmph.2013.46.S.S22

Carl W. Cotman, Nicole C. Berchtold, Lori-Ann Christie, Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation, Trends in Neurosciences, Volume 30, Issue 9 2007, Pages 464-472

Cotman, Carl W.; Engesser-Cesar, Christie Exercise Enhances and Protects Brain Function, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: April 2002 – Volume 30 – Issue 2 – p 75-79

Fissler P, Küster OC, Laptinskaya D, Loy LS, von Arnim CAF, Kolassa IT. Jigsaw Puzzling Taps Multiple Cognitive Abilities and Is a Potential Protective Factor for Cognitive Aging. Front Aging Neurosci. 2018;10:299. Published 2018 Oct 1. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2018.00299

Park DC, Lodi-Smith J, Drew L, et al. The impact of sustained engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the Synapse Project. Psychol Sci. 2014;25(1):103-112. doi:10.1177/0956797613499592

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