What brain exercises can I do to increase my brain power?

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Sometimes you may feel like you are losing your mind, but with age we are actually losing our brain. We can fight this loss of vital real estate with brain exercise. Look on the Internet and you will find an entire industry built around brain exercises. They focus on the five main areas of cognitive function --memory, attention, language, visual-spatial skills, and executive function. I suggest checking them out, downloading a few, and using a few minutes of your "found time" each day to sharpen your most vital organ.

Here are other simple ways to build your brain every day:
  • Memorize the lyrics to new music. Pop in a new tune every couple of days, and keep your brain hopping.
  • Use your left hand. I was born right-handed and started using my left hand to train my neuromuscular connections for surgery about 10 years ago. Now I'm nearly completely ambidextrous. Learning a new skill forces new neural connections. Yes, you really can teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Change your routine. When we get into a rut or routine, we use the same neural pathways over and over again. Simply change your daily routine, take another route home, or put your make-up on in a different order. This forces you to think through the process and re-engages your brain.
  • Multitask. To further break up your brain's habits, do several different activities at once. Read on the treadmill, listen to an educational CD in the car on the way home, jog a new route, etc.
  • Learn a new language. I'm not just talking about learning French and Italian here. I mean pick up a magazine on a subject you know nothing about and read a few articles. You will learn new vocabulary, pick up new information, and can share interesting new facts at your next cocktail party.
  • Get in your mind's eye. Next time you walk into a new room, quickly look around and try to memorize what you see. When you leave, try to recall everything you saw, where it was located, who was there. If it is an interesting place, describe the scene in detail to your dinner partner. If you are a visual learner, this might be easy for you. Pay attention and try to remember everything about the next conversation you have.
  • Reach out and say hello. Social interactions force our brains to strategize, solve problems, and anticipate and consider options. All these activities are called the brain's "executive function."
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 A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments and dancing were among the best leisure activities for keeping a brain young and fit. My personal favorite is table tennis -- it's the world's best brain sport! Online brain training is another fantastic way to stay sharp and improve your focus, memory, speed of processing and problem solving abilities. Some brain games even help with emotional control and stress resilience.  A new 10-year study showed that just 10 60-to-75-minute sessions of computerized brain training over six weeks time significantly improved cognition among seniors and supported their ability to carry out everyday tasks -- and that the benefits lasted for 10 years or more. With results like this, just image what would happen if you exchanged an hour of watching TV for playing brain games, once a week.

You will find great ideas here on Sharecare regarding increasing brain power!  If you are an individual that enjoys working with a group I would like to suggest searching out classes which will incorporate Memory, Multitasking, Language, Ambidextrous Movement, Routine Breakup, Socialization, and Coordination. Look for classes such as a Parkinson's Exercise Group or Stroke Class where these skills are honed in on to assist people dealing with a neurological disorder.

  • You will benefit from the exercises.
  • If you do not have a neurological disorder these folks will NOT judge you.
  • You will step out of the box of millions who are unaware of these disorders and will build a valuable link of support to people who need it the most. 
  • You will feel good about yourself and others will tremendously appreciate you in the process. 

These types of classes should incorporate a physical and mental preparation for an improvement on activities we do every day. A quick example would be to have each person in class individually say a word and associate it to a movement at the same time. Then the next person does the same. Each individual has to remember the movement and the word of all the people before them and add to it. After every person has done this then everyone tells the story with the words and movements. It is a fun process and this is just one of the activities you might find in one of these types of classes. This activity assist in memory, sequencing, and prioritizing; items in life we should never take advantage of. Be strong mentally, physically, and encourage others at the same time. It is a win for all. 

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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.