This past month, we’ve talked about ways to reduce your risk of dementia, including physical and social activities that can protect your brain and are easy to try out. These activities include engaging with your friends, family and community, and finding a quick workout routine you love and can do regularly. But what about engaging your brain, and working it out?
Studies show that exercising your brain daily and keeping it stimulated can be critical to reducing your risk of dementia. Giving your brain a challenge forces it to engage in new or rarely-used mental pathways that can prevent or slow the onset of cognitive decline that can lead to dementia such as Alzheimer’s. When it comes to boosting your brain, there are a variety of exercises you can try – some simple and some more challenging!
1. Rather try something simple? Take up a new hobby
It's never too late to try something new! Constantly learning new things throughout your life can help you build your cognitive reserve.
Whether it’s cooking a new meal every week, taking up painting or figuring out how to fix something around the house, adding another regular activity to your repertoire is a great and easy way to challenge your brain. You may find a new passion or end up unlocking a hidden talent, too!
2. Looking for a challenge? Learn a new language
Looking for something even more challenging? Try learning a new language! While more time-intensive, learning a new language is a great way to exercise your brain because you will need to practice regularly to become skilled.
There are many types of languages too! How about computer language, like learning how to code? Or sign language? You can even try learning an instrument – it’s the language of music! Anything that needs regular practice will help you and your brain.
3. Rather try something simple? Play games that involve your mind
Games are not only fun, they require you to pay attention, think strategically and test your memory, which are all excellent ways to keep your brain exercised. Examples of brain-challenging games can include chess, tabletop games, video games, word and number puzzles, jigsaws, crosswords, sudoku and memory games. A few of these games are linked below, give one a try:
For games on your computer, your tablet or your phone, find games where you can play and interact with other people to get that social bonus in!
4. Looking for a challenge? Cross-train your brain
What's something you're not good at doing? What can you do to improve it? It may be tough, but if you work at what you’re inexperienced at, you can give yourself and your brain some flexibility. You may surprise yourself with how capable you are!
You can also try a variety of challenges instead of sticking to one particular area. Instead of learning how to set up a tent, for example, why not learn more about all the things you need to do to go on a well-planned backcountry camping trip?
5. Rather try something simple? Break your routine
It’s never too late to try something new! A small challenge to try out is changing up how you normally live your day. Take a different route to the grocery store or change the order of your morning routine.
It may be more difficult than you think at first, but trying out different routines can help you feel more prepared and ready to take on other challenges.
6. Looking for a challenge? Take a class
Lifelong learning is vital to exercising your brain. When something is above your expertise, don’t be discouraged; ask for help and get professional education and training so you can pursue what you want to learn about.
Class discussions and assignments may help your analytical and thinking abilities and help you get past longstanding obstacles. Learning in a group environment, even if it’s an online class, can add another flavour of social interaction to your week!
7. Feeling tired or frustrated? Sleep on it, or try something else
Just as it’s tough to work out when you’re feeling exhausted, it’s not effective to exercise your brain when it’s running on empty. Get plenty of sleep! You need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Otherwise, sleep deprivation can significantly impair your memory, mood and function.
And if a task ends up being too challenging, don’t be afraid to ask for help… or just find something else to do. There’s no need to give yourself unnecessary stress that can work against your brain health.
8. Check with your Alzheimer Society for more tips and challenges
Looking for more suggestions to challenge your brain? Contact your local Alzheimer Society. We are happy to provide brain-boosting resources and tips to anyone who is interested in their brain health, whether you live with dementia or are interested in reducing your risk.
Also, check out these resources on challenging your brain from RBC Wealth Management!
Promoting brain health at every age. Learn more about physical activity, nutrition and two lifestyle factors that may affect your brain health and risk of dementia.
Brain health and legacy: What you and your heirs need to know. An Olympic athlete talks about the importance of brain health and the impact it has had on her journey.
Dementia is not inevitable: Lifestyle tips for your brain health. Some of Canada’s leading scientists in women’s brain health discuss lifestyle choices that can help prevent brain-aging diseases.
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