12 Fun Ways to Maintain a Healthy Brain

While scientists have yet to determine how to fully prevent Alzheimer’s disease, they have done some research that demonstrates that keeping our brains active throughout our lives can delay symptoms. Some research has even shown a delay in symptoms of up to five years. If you could delay Alzheimer’s and have those extra years to enjoy your family and friends, wouldn’t you want that?

So, get ready to stretch your mind and try the following 12 activities, starting with physical exercise.


Physical Exercise

Physical Exercise Helps the Body and Mind
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Several studies have shown the cognitive benefits of physical exercise, and a healthy body is frequently linked with a healthy mind.

While some studies have concluded that certain types of exercise are the most helpful, others have found that almost any physical activity is good for your brain.

Stretch out before beginning your routine, and make sure your healthcare provider has approved your exercise regimen, whether it consists of a walk three times a week, an online exercise group, dance lessons, Wii Fit, or a class at your local Y.


Learn Another Language

Learning Another Language
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Research has demonstrated a significant delay in Alzheimer’s symptoms in individuals who are bilingual. It’s not yet understood how or why this occurs.

One possible explanation is that somehow the brains of bilinguals are able to compensate for the deficits caused by Alzheimer’s, causing these individuals to function as if their brains had less damage than they actually do.

Although some of the research tested those who spoke another language most or all of their lives, it’s never too late to learn a new language. You can take a community education class, go to your local library or find resources online for new language learners.  


Play a Musical Instrument

Man playing saxophone
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Do you play an instrument or have you always wanted to learn? For years, research has indicated that music uses a different area of the brain than speaking or writing. For example, individuals who have experienced a stroke and have difficulty speaking have been known to sing complete songs.

Although using different parts of your brain doesn't guarantee protection against Alzheimer’s or other dementias, research has shown that people with dementia tend to respond well to music. And, at the very least, music is an enjoyable way to spend time.



Memorization of Verses

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Do you have a favorite book, poem, or proverb? Set a goal to memorize a couple of verses or phrases a week. Choose something that will be helpful to have stuck in your mind.

For example, one woman decided to memorize some of her favorite verses. She felt that, in addition to exercising her brain, those words would also encourage her throughout the day.  


Play Games

Playing Strategy Games and Cards

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Try strategy games. You can play with others in person or online by yourself. Fun games include Scrabble, euchre, chess, bridge, and more elaborate games like Agricola and Cities & Knights.

Games that require more strategy, as opposed to the luck of the draw, may be more effective in challenging your brain. 


Read a Book

Reading Can Stretch the Mind

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Books are everywhere. Now that there’s so much available online, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home.

If you enjoy reading, try something that’s a bit different from your typical genre. For example, if you enjoy romance books, try reading a book about gardening or a how-to article on financial planning. You can also consider joining a book club if you need encouragement and accountability to continue reading.


Do Puzzles

Crossword Puzzles May Protect Your Brain

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Crosswords, Sudoku, and jumble puzzles are all ways to keep your brain active. Think of it as your daily walk around the block for your brain. 



Traveling Can Offer Adventure and Learning

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, seeing something in person could be priceless. New experiences and unfamiliar situations can be a good workout for your mind. While I'm not aware of any specific studies directly connecting traveling with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, traveling might be helpful for reducing your stress level, which has been connected with dementia risk.

A word of caution, however: Ensure that you’re in good physical and mental health before embarking on your adventure.


Calculate Math Problems

Balancing Checkbook
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Rather than use your calculator or an online program to balance your checkbook, do it the old-fashioned way. Brushing up on your math skills can be part of your weekly routine, and it won’t take much time.

Have grandchildren or know others who are learning their math facts? Spending a little time helping them learn multiplication could benefit both of you.


Take a Class

Taking a Computer Class

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Have you always been interested in painting? Take an art class. Is fixing things your gift? Develop a new skill through a community class. Maybe you’d like to get an advanced degree.

There’s no age limit on schooling, so give it a try. You can also use these seven strategies to help you remember what you're learning



Friendship Is Important to Brain Functioning

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Spend time with others, talk, discuss the latest political news, sports, or family happenings, and laugh together. If you think of the brain as a muscle, it needs to be used and used in many different ways. Laughter and conversation are beneficial for the mind, body, and the heart. 




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Volunteering can combine several of these strategies. For example, you could tutor a student at the local elementary school on a weekly basis. This could involve socialization, reading, or math skills and perhaps even games or a new language.

You can use your skills at the local community development organization. Volunteering is one way to share the gifts you've been given, and it's beneficial to you at the same time.

A Word from Verywell Health

While there's no guarantee against the development of dementia, we do know that science consistently backs the idea that mental and physical activity may decrease the risk of dementia, and they often improve current mental functioning, as well. Taking steps to maintain a healthy brain is an important strategy towards better overall health.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Esther Heerema, MSW
Esther Heerema, MSW, shares practical tips gained from working with hundreds of people whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.