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5 Brain Exercises to Keep You Smart and Sharp

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Brain exercises to improve cognitive function

At a certain point in our lives, we no longer use our brains in ways we were forced to in school. Locked into a profession, many of us evolve into one-trick ponies, experts in one particular field and without the time and energy to venture into areas beyond the demands of our occupations or daily lives. Our brains are compromised because of it – we simply don’t challenge them enough. We become forgetful, slow, and disengaged, but regular brain exercises can help.

Your brain is a lot like the rest of the muscles in your body -- the more you work your brain, the stronger it becomes. Just as you would hit the gym to stimulate the growth of muscle cells, you have to put your brain on a fitness regimen in order to increase its functioning.

And the brain is bound by nothing, including age. The human brain has the incredible ability to adapt and change, even in old age. The brain's neuroplasticity allows it to form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and react in increasingly novel ways at any age.

The following 5 brain exercises are easy to integrate into your daily life.

5 Brain Exercises to Boost Cognitive Function

1. Exercise

Perhaps one of the most effective exercise for the brain is aerobic exercise. Working out increases the blood flow to the brain and helps to clear away mind fog and confusion. Aerobic exercise is especially beneficial for the brain. Any activity that increases your heart rate is also doing wonders for your brain.

If you aren't already exercising, here is yet another good reason to start.

2. Laugh More

Say what?! Laughter is indeed the best medicine. Laughter is unique in that it stimulates multiple regions across the whole brain. Listening to jokes and also creating your own jokes boosts learning and creativity.

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Socialize more with fun, playful people. Gravitate toward laughter, and youll find yourself smarter because of it.

3. Get a Full Night's Sleep

Another reason to catch those Zzz's: better brain function. A lot of people stint on their sleep if they are gearing up for an important presentation, exam, or event the next day, but doing so will only compromise performance.

In one study, participants learned new skills and were shown images to test their memory. One group was allowed eight hours of sleep while the other group was restricted to less. When tested on their new skills from the day prior, the group that got the eight hours of sleep performed better.

4. Learn a New Skill

No matter your age, it is never to late to learn something new. Whatever if may be, pick up a new hobby that is unfamiliar and perhaps difficult for you. You don't have to be particularly good at it, you simply have to keep trying to improve. Researchers found that learning a formerly unfamiliar skill -- quilting, a foreign language, or a new sport - improved participants' memory compared to another group of participants who had kept their hobbies within their comfort zones.

5. Download an App to Train Your Brain

There are plenty of apps and game books out there that are devoted to finessing your brain function. Such programs are aimed at improving memory, problem solving skills and processing speed. While their long-term effects are up for debate, they're short-term effects are apparent, making them well worth your time. Choose which brain training App is best for you and use it on a daily basis for increased cognitive function.

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