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What Activities are Good for Memory?

The combination of physical, social, and cognitive activities more than double the effect of medications at slowing down memory loss. Here, I am going to talk about some of the what I call “Brain Games,” or cognitive activities you can do—and I always recommend doing these with a partner because the back-and-forth between you activates the brain more, and it’s a social activity, so you have two of the three things I just mentioned above.


People always ask me: Are Sodoku, crosswords, or online “brain training” programs like Luminosity good for me?


The answer is always: Do what you feel passionate about. If you have always been a computer nerd, or a video gamer, then maybe an online “brain training” program may be fun and stimulating for your brain. If you have always liked word games, then perhaps a crossword puzzle—or better yet, a game of Scrabble—would be good for you. Why do I say Scrabble is better than a crossword? First, because when you complete a crossword, you may not know if the answers you are choosing are correct. And second, real sit-down board games like Scrabble involve real-time feedback (ie. “That word doesn’t exist!” and “Yes, it does. Let me show you in the dictionary”), social interaction, and a back and forth repartee.


Now, if you are more of a visual person (like I am) I would be very frustrated by crosswords, Sodoku, and sometimes even Scrabble. I love being outside. So a perfect activity for someone like me would be designing a garden and planting flowers, building a shed outside, or trimming the trees and hedges.


Other suggestions for more visual kind of people are paint by numbers (easily found on Amazon.com), rubix cubes, or jewelry making. Board Games such as Jenga may be challenging but fun for those with visual issues, and Hungry Hungry Hippos for those with parkinsonism, low dopamine, or slowed reaction times.


I do have to caution you about online brain training games, reading alone, or doing crosswords or Sodoku alone. None of these can usually be done standing up—unless you get a standup desk, and get rid of all your other desks!—and remaining sedentary increases the risk of progression of memory loss. Reading alone is particularly dangerous because a person may think they are following a story or a loved one may think he or she looks very engaged, when in fact the person is reading the words but actually not paying attention at all to the story.


Finally, a game like charades is perfect for the brain because it is cognitively stimulating the exact parts of the brain that may degenerate with Alzheimer’s in particular, it is social, and it is physical because a person needs to stand to make the gestures.


I would love to hear your ideas about fun activities and stimulating things to do for your brain in the comments below. I have tons of ideas with more content coming soon...


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