Mental Exercise - What it Does for You
What does mental exercise do for your brain? I was recently
asked three questions related to this. Here they are, along with
1. What are some of the direct results of doing brain/mental
activities in the long term?
2. How often should one do a brain exercises?
3. What brain exercise do you recommend the most and why?
Although scientists may argue about the degree of benefit
we get from exercising the brain, virtually all agree that there
is some benefit. When we learn new things and do basic
brain exercises we produce new neurons and new connections between
the neurons of the brain, a process which is referred to as neuro-plasticity.
The idea that we can continue to improve our brains - or at least
slow the normal brain function decline associated with age -
is now considered a scientific fact by most scientists.
As reported on Medicinenet.com, research done by Doctor Joe
Verghese and colleagues at Albert Einstein College of Medicine,
working with Syracuse University, studied 469 subjects 75 years
old or older. It was found that mental exercise reduced the incidence
(or delayed the onset) of dementia of many types, including Alzheimer's
disease. Specifically, they found that reading, playing board
games, playing musical instruments, and dancing were all beneficial.
How much brain exercise is needed to get noticeable results?
This is not as well documented, but it seems likely that a good
brain "workout" several times weekly is necessary for
There are many different types of brain exercise which seem
to be beneficial, but it may be most helpful to do things that
are new to you. For the best brain workout then, aim for activities
that use different types of sensory stimuli, and those that involve
non-routine actions and thoughts. These appear to produce more
of the good chemicals that encourage growth of new dendrites
and neurons in the brain.
Perhaps the best examples of the right type of mental exercise
are what is called "neurobics." Neurobics is a term
invented by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin. It describes exercises
that involve non-routine actions and thoughts. I have a page
full of such exercises here Neurobics.
I also like the more "in the mind" exercises, such
as imagining new devices or inventing routines to creatively
solve problems and come up with ideas. You might imagine a new
kind of electric fan, for example, or invent and explain a totally
non-conventional way to address a common political or economic
issue, or make up a way to get ideas from your dreams more consistently.
The important point isn't how great the ideas are, but how much
you stretch the mind to think in new ways. Mental work which
does that will do the most for your brainpower.