Doctors Recommend Puzzles for Mental Decline
We focus so much on keeping our bodies healthy and active, whether it’s from the food we eat or the exercise we do. But sometimes we forget that working out our brains is just as important for our overall well being and health. Several studies find that puzzles and games offer benefits for both cognitive development in children and staving off cognitive decline in older adults.
Preventing Cognitive Decline
Keeping your brain active with various forms stimulation for the duration of your life is more likely to yield better results in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Participating in certain activities during your early or middle years makes you less likely to develop brain plaques tied to Alzheimer’s. Some of these easily accessible tools for fighting against cognitive decline include:
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Challenging games
- Crossword Puzzles
A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal analyzed 32 random research trials and found that while drugs, herbal remedies, vitamins and physical exercise had limited or weak effectiveness in preventing cognitive decline, mental exercises had the potential to help. In one trial, participants had significantly improved memory after a five year follow up period.
Puzzles make use of many of our skills, including:
- Speed of processing
These skills keep our brains engaged and in shape.
It’s better and more effective to start these brain-building activities at an early age and keep up with them rather than picking up these hobbies after retirement. It was found in one study that elderly participants that had completed more puzzles and read more books had brains comparable to healthy controls who were 50 years their junior.
If you needed another reason to make jigsaw puzzles and games a social activity with family and friends, maintaining strong social connections has also been found to ward off these same diseases!
Mild cognitive impairment affects 10-20% of adults over the age of 70, and of those affected, 10% will go on to develop dementia.
Even if your hobby or interest in games blossomed in your later years of life, these activities can contribute to your brain health by keeping your thinking, organizational, and memory circuits active. You can keep generating new brain cells even in your later years! Developing new skills, learning new things, and flexing your brain muscles never stops being beneficial, no matter your age.
For those that are affected with dementia or Alzheimer’s, longitudinal studies have found that those participating in activities that keep the brain intellectually stimulated show less decline over time.
Children’s brain development thrives off of children manipulating the world around them. Puzzles are a great play activity because children work directly with their environment. By changing their environment’s shape and appearance with puzzle play, children:
- Sharpen their hand-eye coordination
- Hone their fine motor skills
- Develop problem-solving techniques
- Master shape recognition
- Improve their memories
These skills translate to other areas of children’s lives, preparing them for school, and later, work. Inspiring a love of games and puzzles in youngsters will help ensure that they maintain engagement with activities that ward off cognitive decline far into their futures, making for a full, happy, and healthy life.