The More, The Better: Brain Exercise Benefits Are Cumulative!

August 6, 2009 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

King of Hearts image by Lusi on Stock.XchngWhen you think of exercising your brain, do you think about which activities you  should focus on, trying to pick and choose the one that might be best? Do you wonder if card playing might be better than crosswords, and crosswords better than reading?

A newly released  study suggests a different approach – instead of choosing a “best” exercise for the brain, we should be doing as many mentally stimulating activities as possible…   because the effects are cumulative!

The new research out of Albert Einstein College of Medicine followed 488 test subjects over a period of five years.  All participants were between the ages of 75-85, none showed symptoms of dementia when selected for the studies. Each person reported on how often they took part in six different activities – reading, writing,  crossword puzzles, group discussions, playing musical instruments and participating in group card or board games, and their mental abilities were tested every 12-18 months.  101 of them developed dementia and associated rapid memory decline during the course of the study, about what’s expected.

Musician Doll image by CraigPJ on Stock.XchngeBut here’s the interesting part: the more of the mind-exercising activities the subjects took part in, the later the onset of dementia was.

In other words, someone who attended a bridge club each week would stay mentally sharp for longer than someone who didn’t participate in any activities…   but someone who played bridge AND attended a book discussion club  AND played a musical instrument would stay mentally sharp for even longer.

Each additional activity seemed to delay the onset of dementia an average of about 9 weeks.  Now, nine weeks may not seem like much at first glance, but remember, it’s *cumulative*, and each activity adds more benefit.   According to Charles Hall (co-author of the study) that adds up to well over a year’s worth of clear thinking for someone participating in 11 activities a week, when compared to someone participating only in 4 activities.

It makes sense.  Each type of activity uses different parts of the brain, and sharpens  different skills.  Each of those activities helps strengthen a different part Crossword Image by Surely, on Stock.Xchngof the neural network.

What’s especially encouraging is that this benefit was evident  in those who did eventually develop dementia – so even if someone is  at a high risk for cognitive problems due to genetics, health issues or other factors, a solid effort to stay mentally active may still protect their mental capacity for quite some time.

In summary, it’s another case in the growing pile of evidence that lifestyle is every bit as important as genetics when it comes to maintaing cognitive function even at an advanced age….  and that it’s truly never too late to make a difference.

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active, Be Socially Active!, Supporting Science & Medicine. Tags: , , , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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