Preventing Memory Loss: Exercising the Brain

As a continuation on our series in preventing memory loss, today I’m going to look at a more fun way to keep our brains in working order as we age: playing games. Researchers have proven time and again that challenging our brains throughout our life has a great impact on maintaining our gray matter.

We have a very clear understanding that in order to maintain the muscles in our bodies, we have to challenge them consistently with exercises to keep them fit. By making our muscles work every day, rather than remain in a state of rest, they stay strong – or even become bigger and stronger if we push. The same, simple concept applies to the brain. By challenging it someway each day, it stays strong or even improves. Allow it to remain in a state of rest, and well, it degenerates. Just like your body.

And much like exercise again, working out the brain doesn’t have to be a task – it can be fun. You simply have to choose the method of brain workouts that you will apply yourself to and keep up with. During your professional life, you most likely challenged your brain quite enough (too much even… more on stress next week!). But after retirement, it can easily fall off the agenda. Select activities that you sincerely enjoy, or that you can partake in with friends and family, and make sure you are challenging your brain each day.

  • Learn a language. Learning a language has been proven to be one of the top methods for preventing Alzheimer’s. In fact, bilingual seniors have a significantly lower risk of dementia. For all of us who have often lamented a desire to learn a new language, let this be a great motivator!
  • Play time. Many games engage the brain with problem solving. Playing board or trivia games in a group, or solitary games such as Sudoku or crosswords are great pastimes – you won’t even feel like it’s a responsibility! Why not round up a few friends and organise a weekly game night, where you pick games that will challenge your cognitive skills?
  • Pick up a book. Nothing beats a great read. Enjoying challenging novels (not the drugstore books) will keep your brain (and by extension, your imagination) active.
  • Keep a diary. Writing can help to keep your mind active. Writing in your diary daily can prove to me a meditative, as well as memory-maintaining activity. Try keeping a journal that you write in every day – you can write about anything you want: memories, daily activities, or even fictional writing.

While you’re making your new year’s resolutions to keep fit this year, make sure you include some fitness for your brain!