My friend and I are having a cordial little disagreement and maybe you can help us sort it out.
We always hear about the importance of “exercising” our brains. (We are 75 and 76 years old.) She’s enrolled in a foreign language class, saying that’s the best kind of brain exercise and that my crossword puzzles won’t do the trick. She tells me I need to be learning something far more difficult.
Well, if I do need to be doing something more taxing, I guess I’ll take the risk. I’m too old to make my brain work that hard.
I’ve been doing my crosswords for years. I enjoy them and I absolutely believe they make my brain work. What do you say? Are my crossword puzzles enough to keep my brain fit? — Signed, Baffled
I believe both of you are correct. Crossword puzzles and learning a foreign language are challenging activities that will stimulate your brains.
By how much, however, is a different question. Honestly, perhaps two good friends don’t need to be concerned about the part of your question but, since you asked …
Numerous research studies have established that a brain healthy lifestyle definitely contributes to an improved quality of life. There is some research that also suggests learning something new and complex, over a long period of time is quite beneficial for our aging brains. I have to admit that your friend’s foreign language studies fits this requirement perfectly.
However, there are so many other ways to stimulate our neurological activity, including crossword puzzles, that I believe a mixture of challenging and fun activities all make positive contributions to our brain health.
Here are activities that will kelp keep your brain healthy:
• Do math in your head, without benefit of paper and pencil.
• Test your recall. Make a list of items, memorize it and in an hour, see how many you recall.
• Draw a map from memory.
• Take any class you might enjoy. Let’s say cooking appeals to you. In that setting, all of your senses will be engaged, you’ll be challenged to learn new things and remember many aspects of any given recipe.
• Games of most any kind, including some video games, spark our neuropathways.
• Create word pictures in your head. Think of a word, then, using the beginning and ending letters of that word, see how many other words you can list.
• Learn a new small motor activity, like knitting, painting or drawing.
• Put music into your life — join a choir or learn an instrument.
In other words, your brain will benefit by simply engaging in new and different activities. The point is to explore things that appeal to your particular interests.