Just like your body, your brain needs regular exercise to stay in shape and perform at its peak. To understand why, imagine your brain as a street map. Information passes between the brain's neurons through a network of neural pathways, much like traffic on streets and highways. If you only engage in a limited, routine number of activities, you only have that small a system of information roadways to use. Brain games encourage the mind to build new pathways. That means you'll use more of the available surface of your brain, meaning you'll store and retrieve information much more easily. Want proof? The New England Journal of Medicine says adults who engage in mentally stimulating activities on a regular basis are 63-percent less likely to develop dementia than those who rarely do. The best brain games are fresh and unusual to the person playing them, so if you're a seasoned Tetris player, you'll want to power down and visit a bookstore. Some options include word games, like crosswords, and number games, like Sudoku. Look up "free brain games" online and you'll get tons of options! And most phones allow you to download brain games, so you can play whenever you're stuck with some downtime. Board games, like chess and Scrabble, and card games, like Solitaire, are also great ways to stimulate the brain! But not all stimulation must stem from actual games. Basically, anything that forces your brain to pay attention to behavior that was once automatic will arouse your mind! Taking a different route to work, eating, writing, or using the mouse with your non-dominant hand, and showering with your eyes closed, are all ways to challenge the brain. But remember: A brain game stops being one if you're too used to it! So, when the New York Times Sunday crossword starts getting easy, give basic Sudoku a try! If you work with numbers for a living, consider drawing or painting. Keep challenging your mind, switch activities often, and enjoy the mental rewards of your workout!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012