The last article in our series on brainpower addressed the relationship between diet and mental capacity. But eating your way to a smarter brain is not enough.
You should also actively exercise your brain muscles. In the same way that you might go for a jog to tone your legs, you should also give your brain a workout to sharpen your thinking.
Benefits of Brain Exercises
In a fascinating study on cognitive training for the elderly, Ball et al. found that brain exercises can actually decrease the cost of health care by helping to prevent mental illnesses, such as dementia. Mental training can even lessen the need for nursing homes for aging populations.
Participants of the study were divided into four groups. They were then tested in a variety of areas, such as verbal memory, problem-solving skills, and visual memory.
Almost a year later, three of the four groups of participants were given mental training exercises and then subjected to more tests.
The results of the study revealed that the majority of participants who received cognitive training actually enhanced their brainpower.
The aging population is especially prone to losing or slowing down their executive reasoning skills.
The executive part of your brain is found at the front of your head, just above your eyes.
Executive cognitive skills include the ability to problem-solve, even when the variables of a question are changed. Strong executive thinkers are able to examine complex data, as well as provide logical interpretations of their conclusions. They are also able to foresee how current data could affect the future. Entrepreneurs, for instance, excel at determining how to make a company grow and succeed.
A great way to prevent the loss of executive thinking is to test your mind with new sets of problems. By challenging your brain with the unfamiliar, you are able to keep your mind young.
Similarly, young children can develop their thinking skills depending on the toys that they play with. Toys that show a relationship between cause and effect teach them to trace patterns. For instance, a child will learn that if he or she throws a ball in the air, it will go up and eventually fall back down.
Executive Reasoning Exercises
There are several brain exercises available online – many of them for free.
For your convenience, below is a list of my favorite exercises. You can easily incorporate these into your daily routine to keep your mind active and alert throughout the week.
On Your Phone
Simple Brain Workout
You can easily install this app onto your iPhone or Android. It includes four brain exercises that help you enhance your memory retention and ability to focus. You can even keep track of your progress along the way. If you enjoy a healthy competition, then you are welcome to post your scores and view those of others around the globe.
30-Second Brain Training
Are you having a busy week and want a quick 30-second brain booster? These games are only 30s long each. Your score also indicates the health of your brain, depending on your results. This app allows you to test your skills to observe data, retain information, and perform mathematical calculations. You can try the General Test for a quick analysis of your thinking skills.
Are you tired of pulling out your calculator every time you’re buying groceries or calculating your expenses? The creators of this app claim that a daily 5-minute math workout for 7 days will improve your executive thinking skills. This game is suitable for all ages. Moreover, you can participate in a worldwide math competition and review your progress with charts and data.
On Your Computer
This colorful and interactive game tests the five major parts of your brain, including (1) memory retention, (2) logical reasoning, (3) concentration skills, (4) language skills, and (5) visual memory. Based on your performance, the game provides recommendations on how to maximize your brain workouts. It also tracks your progress for each of the five areas. Create an account for free to find out the best brain regimen for you.
In Your Family Room
A game of chess is not only a fun way to interact with a friend or family member. It is also a great brain workout. Playing chess can increase your IQ, help decrease the chance of Alzheimer’s, exercise both your left and right brain, enhance your memory retention, sharpen your problem-solving skills, and improve your understanding of cause and effect.
Keep Your Mind Active
It is easy, quick, and fun to improve your brainpower. Even better, you can exercise your brain without spending a penny. There are more advantages than disadvantages to beginning your brain workout. Training your brain for a few minutes today is a long-term investment in tomorrow.
Ball, K. et al. 2002. Effects of Cognitive Training Interventions With Older Adults. JAMA. Pp. 2271-2281 [online] Available at: <http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=195506>
Bragdon, AD. 2011. Brain Games: Brain Teasers, Logic Tests, and Puzzles to Exercise Your Mind. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.