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The Health Centre

Flex Your Brain, You Need To Look After It

chess player

When the mind is active, the brain is protected.

Evidence-based research shows people who take part in intellectually stimulating activities such as reading,  playing board games or musical instruments have a reduced risk of dementia.  Our brain is our control centre for memory, emotions,   learning and behaviour. Exercising or challenging the brain is thought to build reserves of brain cells and enhance brain cell connections, helping you to stay mentally sharp.

The more mentally demanding the activities, the greater the benefits. Research strengthens the ‘use it or lose it’ argument by demonstrating that complex and precise brain activity can build brain reserves that may protect people from Alzheimer’s disease in later life.

Brain stimulation increases blood flow and metabolism of specific cortical regions and also supports the cells that feed neurons. Research is now demonstrating direct links between mental activity and brain development, as well as pointing to the beneficial effect of mental activity in dementia prevention.

Conversely, research also suggests sensory deprivation, environmental stimulus deprivation and social deprivation all contribute to cognitive impairment. Adults with hobbies that exercise their brain are 2.5 times less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease. The evidence is clear. Older adults who engage in mentally-challenging activities are more cognitively healthy.

Flex your brain – you need to look after it

Cutting-edge research suggests that gathering knowledge and developing creativity can  ensure learning at any age. This is ‘fluid intelligence’ – the measure of the efficiency with which the brain functions through its networks, rather than the number of acts stored there.

Mental stimulation activates underused nerve pathways and connections, producing a kind of natural ‘brain fertiliser’ that strengthens and helps nerve connections. The nerve cell receivers stay younger and stronger.

The benefit is a strong agile mind that can handle mental challenges such as remembering names, mastering computer programs or being creative.

The process of learning new information flexes the memory, and promotes brain growth. It may help delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The earlier you start the better.

The most important thing middle-aged adults can do to enjoy cognitive health in their later years is to commit to making mental vitality a routine part of each day.

Brain exercises

  • You play mind games like crosswords, puzzles, chess, draughts and cards you read bo€oks, newspapers and magazines

  • write letters, a diary, postcards and descriptions of travel

  • talk with family, friends and others

  • use a computer

  • learn a language or take a course

  • pursue cultural activities like going to plays, concerts, museums or galleries

  • keep up hobbies, like jigsaws, painting, sewing, carpentry

  • do brain-stimulating activities around the house, like cooking and gardening.


Almost any type of mental activity may be beneficial, but it should be:

reasonably complex

  • frequent

  • varied

  • interesting.

Source: Alzhheimer's Australia NSW





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