RapidEye for Getty Images
RapidEye for Getty Images

To strengthen the body, you focus on one exercise at a time. You do the same thing to strengthen the brain.

“The more you engage your brain, the longer you can hold on to your cognitive reserve,” explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a licensed neuropsychologist and teaching faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College in New York City. The “cognitive reserve” includes our store of memory, problem-solving ability and verbal reasoning skills, all of which deteriorate as we age.

Learning something new—a language, an instrument, cooking, needlework—is always great for the brain. So taking a cutting or color class is not just good for business but for your brain, too! Hafeez also suggests boosting brain brawn by writing with your non-dominant hand, memorizing phone numbers, calculating math in your head, doing a crossword or teaching yourself a daily new word definition.

Morning is a great time for a brain stretch, according to Hafeez. “Doing something stimulating and challenging before work gets your brain geared up for the day,” she says. “If you run two miles in the morning, walking seems like a stroll. Similarly, if you perform math calculations as you’re driving or spell words backwards for the fun of it, the tasks you do at work will seem like a breeze. This will help you keep moving from one task to the next.”

Some scientists feel this attention to the brain may reduce or delay mental decline in your life but, whether it does or not, “brain exercises are good for your overall daily health and may actually protect you from more serious ailments,” Hafeez notes. “Daily smaller brain boosters can help with mental agility, daily memory, work productivity and even an active social life, by helping increase attention, focus and creative, problem solving skills.”

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