Train your brain and keep it working its best with these mental health exercises.

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Train Your Brain: 9 Exercises for Peak Cognitive Health

1. Mental Math

Train your brain by doing math in your head—without the aid of the calculator app on your phone, without writing it down on a piece of paper, or drawing it in the air.

Start with simple math like addition and work your way up. You can do this while shopping for snacks; try computing the total in your head before you get to the checkout counter.

2. Play Those Newspaper Games

Those games in the newspaper can be a convenient early workout for your brain. Doing the crossword, playing Sudoku, or trying out whatever word and number games are lined up in the entertainment section is a good cognitive training warmup to get your brain working for the day.

3. Test Your Memory

You don’t have to buy memory training games to test your memory. You can do this yourself by simply making a list and then memorizing it.

That list can be a group of errands you need to get done by the end of the day or a shopping list you need to complete. The longer the list, the more challenging it is.

4. Learn Music

a woman playing guitar outdoors | Train Your Brain With These Mental Exercises | how to improve brain function

A young woman plays the guitar while sitting on a fence outside.

Learning how to play a new instrument or how to sing in a choir can be helpful for exercising your cognitive faculties. Studies show that learning something new and challenging, even at a slow pace, is ideal for sharpening the mind.

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5. Learn a New Language

Studies show that people who speak more than one language have a lower risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or any form of decline in cognitive function.

As it turns out, learning a new language can make changes in the brain structure which results in resilience against cognitive impairment. Researchers have observed that the medial temporal lobes, a part of the brain crucial for memory formation, are thicker in bilinguals and multilingual than in monolinguals.

Medial Temporal Lobes Definition: Parts of the brain responsible for long-term memory

6. Take Cooking Classes

Learning how to cook can actually be helpful in exercising your mental capabilities. This is because it calls for the use of most of your senses (sight, smell, touch, and taste) to complete a dish.

You can even dial the difficulty up a notch by challenging yourself to recreate dishes by identifying ingredients by taste. Many dishes and cooking techniques also require a certain level of technical skill and calculations, such as baking, which definitely puts your mind to the test.

7. Take up a Hobby That Improves Hand-Eye Skills

Some hobbies helpful in refining fine motor skills include the following:

  • Knitting
  • Painting
  • Puzzle making/solving
  • Carving
  • Sculpture
  • Sewing/Embroidery

Not only do these skills require some level of creativity, they sometimes require hand-eye motor skills, as well as some capacity for problem-solving.

8. Create a Mental Map

Young man driving in the modern car | Train Your Brain With These Mental Exercises | memory improvement

A young man drives his car.

These days it can be easy to grow dependent on GPS systems and apps that tell you which way to go. While this is highly convenient, there’s little you can do if the system fails and you get stranded in an unknown location.

Try drawing up a mental map from memory after visiting a new location. Much like how constant exposure to your area helps you memorize how to get around, a mental map can open up new pathways—both on the road and in your brain.

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9. Take up a New Sport

Physical exercise is good for anyone all around. But you can step this up by learning a new sport which marries both the body and the mind.

This includes relaxing but challenging sports such as tennis, golf, and yoga. Other surprisingly cerebral sports on the more extreme end of the spectrum include martial arts, which requires thinking of moves at least three steps ahead, as well as strengthening and conditioning the body.

Just as one must keep the body healthy, the mind has to be kept in tip-top shape, too. Giving your brain healthy mental exercises can help improve cognitive function and delay its decline.

Being sharp in the mind is also great for the body in general. Having an all-around healthy disposition is an ideal to strive towards in advancing age.

What brain exercises do you like doing? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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