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Have Fun and Stay Young: Reading and
Playing Games Protects Your Brain

We all know that it’s important to workout our bodies via exercise, but did you know it’s also important to work out our brains ? When you concentrate on engaging your mind in things like games and activities, you help to keep your mind fit for years. This might be the most enjoyable way to protect your brain from memory loss as you age. 

Your Hobbies and Your Mind

Reading for brain health

How you spend your leisure time can have an impact on how sharp your mind remains as you grow older. There a numerous hobbies that can help to keep your memory function and learning abilities intact, and maybe even help them to grow. These include reading, chess, crossword puzzles, and games and programs designed to strengthen cognition.

Hobby Category #1: Reading

If you are debating what hobby to take up to help improve your brain function, reading is the best option available. Reading throughout your lifetime is linked to a slower progression of age-related cognitive decline. (*1) 

When you spend your time reading, you learn while improving your memory and ability to focus. (*1) This is particularly true if you choose to take part in a book club, where you discuss ideas, or when you read nonfiction books and learn something new.

Hobby Category #2: Traditional Games

playing games for brain health

There are lots of games that may help to exercise memory, executive function, and overall cognition. (*2,3,4) Some of the most popular include chess, card games, Sudoku, crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles. 

When it comes to games, the type of memory that appears to be the most positively influenced is working memory, which is memory involved in the retrieval of information. (*4) Semantic reasoning, executive function, and logical reasoning have also been found to be positively impacted. Other types of memory, including short- and long-term memory, do not appear to be impacted by most games. 

Strategy games, including board games like chess and Settlers of Catan, and even strategy-based computer and video games, are thought to be particularly powerful when it comes to cognitive benefits. (*2) 

While some of these benefits are thought to be due to the games and the challenges that they present, there is another aspect that may contribute: most games are social activities. (*4) Social interactions help preserve cognition too, making social games particularly beneficial for brain health. 

Hobby Category #3: Brain-Training Games

While there is much less research on the newer brain-training games offered by numerous companies around the Web, there are new studies that suggest these games may benefit memory and cognition. (*5) 

Most of these studies found improvements in the specific cognitive tasks that were being trained, but not additional benefits. For example, memory, speed of processing, or reasoning practiced in a game improved these same cognitive tasks outside of the game, but not other cognitive functions. 

It is too early to know if these games can help to slow cognitive decline, but they do appear to help with various aspects of cognitive function.

Final Thoughts

Social interaction is important

No one wants to lose their mental faculties as they age. To help protect the health and function of your brain, add in some activities that can challenge it. Reading books and playing games are two fun ways to keep your brain working well for years to come. 

1. Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging

2. Can training in a real-life strategy videogame attenuate cognitive decline in older adults

3. Mental activities may protect against mild cognitive impairment

4. Playing board games, cognitive decline, and dementia: a French population-based cohort study