The brain and its functions are often likened to muscles — just like your major skeletal muscles, the brain has to be used and built up in order to work to its maximum capabilities. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Memory is a highly interactive and dynamic collection of processes that reflect and inform who we are as unique individuals.” It is absolutely essential to train the brain in order to achieve better function and also to maintain function as we age. Brain training can easily be broken down into similar categories to those used for muscle fitness. Training doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking and can often be done in about 30 minutes per day.
Strength. The brain’s version of strength training generally deals with increasing capabilities in memory and the ability to learn new information and then retain it. You can train your brain in these areas by regularly working to learn new things and by reviewing what you already know. This may be as simple as taking 20 minutes a day to review something you’ve learned in the past and to see what else you can glean from that information. Reading, interacting with others and other such activities will also help you absorb information. Actively listening and using mnemonic devices will help improve retention.
Flexibility. In order for the brain to function fully, it needs to be able to manipulate the information that it receives. Training your brain to be more flexible often includes activities that involve spatial reasoning, logic, and other forms of evaluating and using what you know. Jigsaw puzzles, games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles may all help in this area of your training. Basically, anything that involves reasoning and creativity are great flexibility exercises.
Speed. While you may know the information and be able to use it effectively, you may need to work on your thinking speed. This is the brain’s version of aerobic exercise — something to get “the wheels turning,” so to speak. Activities to train your brain for speed don’t necessarily need to be difficult, and, in fact, very simple problems — such as basic math or determining the number of shapes in a given picture — are often the most effective. With these exercises, you strive to build on intuitive thinking.