The idea that puzzles can slow brain aging is controversial.
Some neurologists strongly recommend puzzles like crosswords and sudoku as a way to keep your mind sharp into old age. Others say they don’t help your brain do anything better…other than puzzles.
But major new research shows that crossword and sudoku puzzles are extremely effective in preserving mental sharpness.
Researchers asked older adults how often they did puzzles. They then had the participants take cognitive tests. The tests measured changes in brain function.
The more frequently people did puzzles, the better they performed on the tests. Avid puzzle solvers had better memory, reasoning, attention, and problem-solving skills.
Dr. Anne Corbett led the research. She said improvements were especially clear “in the speed and accuracy of performance.”
Regarding problem solving, “people who regularly do these puzzles performed the equivalent of eight years younger.”
The research shows that regularly doing crossword and sudoku puzzles “helps keep our brains working better for longer,” said Dr. Corbett.
Give Your Brain a Heavy Dose of Puzzles
Doing puzzles for mental sharpness is dose dependent. In other words, the more time you spend on the puzzles, the more benefits you’ll get. Try to do at least one puzzle every day that takes at least 15 minutes to complete.
When a certain type of puzzle becomes easy, move on to more difficult ones. Changing up the kind the of puzzles you do brings more brain benefits.
New challenges—neurologists call it novelty—are important for brain building.
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