Is a regular mental workout valuable as I age?

Sharine Forbes
Geriatric Medicine

Research to-date clearly supports the idea of “use it or lose it” and even expands on the original hypothesis; not only can a holistic lifestyle help prevent mental decline in old age, it can also contribute positively to its sustainability and quality of life. Thus, a holistic lifestyle and challenging the brain encourages the neurological processes to keep working by fostering intellectual functions (Williams & Kemper, 2010). This includes, but is not limited to, learning a new language, or learning to use the computer, crossword puzzles and “brain games”, such as bridge or chess (Williams & Kemper, 2010). By maintaining the mental mechanisms engaged an individual can “use-it” and not “lose-it”.  Therefore, people should be encouraged to engage in life-long learning opportunities as a means to stay fit. 

This article by Williams and Kemper (2010), states that training the working memory can help maintain fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence (Gf), thought to be determined by genetic factors (Schaie ,1993), is regarded as an individual’s capability to comprehend the world around them, without the use of any current knowledge or skill, to help them solve a problem. Crystallized intelligence (Gc), although somewhat dependent on fluid intelligence, is measured differently, as it is regarded to as being the extent to which ones environment, i.e. education, and even culture, has contributed to ones mental abilities (Schaie, 1993). Crystallized intelligence (Gc) helps explain the differences within a given age range as there are a lot of variations in intelligence due to influences which can impact cognitive mechanism outside of age (Horn & Cattell, 1967).


Williams, K.N. & Kemper, S.  (2010). Interventions to Reduce Cognitive Decline in Aging. Journal of Psychological Nursing, 48, 42-51.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.