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Brain Games

A regular workout is good for your health

Taking care of the brain is just as important as taking care of the body, and more and more resources are becoming available to make the task easy and fun.

From online sites with tests and games to apps for your smartphone or tablet, brain games are readily available to suit everyone, but how do you know which ones you need and which ones will have the greatest impact?

Our brain changes with age and the cognitive reserve or the ability to perform mental tasks diminishes with time. Researchers have found that people who participate in brain training or exercising the brain can reduce that cognitive decline - and they say it’s never too early to start.

Brain stimulation can be as easy as working the crossword or Sudoku puzzle in the daily newspaper or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. 

And for the estimated 25 million bridge players in the U.S., researchers suggest the mental stimulation of the game, combined with the social interaction on a regular basis, has great overall benefits, but the required memory, visualization and sequencing in playing the game are what gives one’s brain the real workout.

If you are not into playing cards and prefer a more autonomous method of exercise, there are several resources you can access. 

The online site Lumosity.com serves up three games per session tailored to memory, problem solving and speed processing. The site tracks your progress and usage and compares your performance to others. The free site offers limited access to games, or you can upgrade to the full site for a monthly or annual fee. 

AARP has a full initiative geared to brain health called Staying Sharp (stayingsharp.aarp.org). You can take a test to get a complete brain health score, as well as a tailored program to improve your health. There are articles to help you understand the information in addition to games and other activities. You will need to create an account and pay for the service to receive your brain health score, however, parts of the site can be accessed for free including some of the games.

CNN offers a full assortment of games for all ages with a specific section geared toward giving your brain a workout. Visit games.cnn.com and click on the brain section to access treasure hunts, word games, crossword puzzles and more. 

If memory loss is a major concern, the app Brain Trainer is for you. It focuses on memorizing letter sequences, solving math problems and remembering phone numbers while offering various levels of difficulty.

Fit Brains is a free training app with hundreds of games and puzzles designed to help improve mental agility by challenging you to certain tasks. The program keeps track of your performance and gets more difficult as you improve.

Experts say any activity that exercises the brain is a benefit because just like any other organ in the body, if it doesn’t get used it will not perform at its optimum level.