Vasily Fedosenko/REUTERSBrain-boosting activities don't have to feel like homework. Science increasingly shows they can be fun little hobbies you add to your daily routine.
As we get older, we all want to make sure our brains stay sharp — especially since doing so can help prevent memory loss and ward off diseases like Alzheimer's.
Scientists have tested whether different activities can improve brain power, and they have some good news: Certain things really can help boost our mental abilities.
It's important to note that this research is usually based on specific patient populations for limited amounts of time. It can also be tough to measure how people's brains might improve in real life compared to in the lab, if that's where the study took place.
But these 7 ways to give keep your brain active have — unlike a lot of misleading claims out there — all been supported by robust research.
Working out is good for your body and your brain.
One study found the brains of older adults who exercised looked more like those of younger adults compared to their counterparts who weren't as active.
Other studies have linked exercise, particularly aerobic workouts, to memory maintenance and cognitive function.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 2.5 hours of moderate cardio activity or 1.25 hours of vigorous cardio activity every week, plus two days of strength training.
2. Learn another language
Learning another language can be fun, and definitely help you communicate when traveling.
A study published in the journal Neurology looked at people diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it found that bilingual subjects got the disease about four years later than those who spoke only one language.
Try picking up another language to exercise your brain.
3. Do a crossword puzzle
Crossword puzzles are everywhere, and they could help boost your brain power.
One study singled them out as a tool to ward off memory loss. People who regularly did the crossword tended to develop dementia later in life than those who didn't do the puzzles.
Whether you solve them with a pen, pencil, or computer mouse, crossword puzzles can be a good option for your brain.
The best part about reading being good for your brain is that you can read just about anything. Go, you — you're exercising your brain right now!
One study gave people elementary school reading worksheets and found that reading and writing simple sentences improved cognitive function.
Another study had Alzheimer's patients read aloud, and found this helped them better communicate and act more independent.
Feel free to read the rest of this article out loud, while you're at it.
5. Do some math problems
When was the last time you did a math problem?
The same study that gave people elementary students' reading worksheets had people complete math ones, too.
The problems were as simple as adding and dividing, but people who did them showed improved cognitive function.
So the next time you want to calculate something, don't whip out your phone or ask Google — try solving the problem with your brain.
6. Play an interactive video game
Interactive computer games like Nintendo Wii or virtual reality headsets are a way to get a little exercise while problem-solving.
Numerous studies have found that playing these games can improve people's cognition, memory, and attention spans.
You now have an excuse to play video games.