Just like the body needs exercise to stay in shape, the brain needs to be worked out to stay fit. Mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness, and you need to keep your brain working at all times. 

Mental fitness is important for people of all ages, and one of the best tools available for maintaining mental acuity are puzzles. Research has shown that puzzles can help in a variety of ways including hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, memory, and problem solving. As Harvard Medical School instructor Dr. Scott McGinnis points out

“Exercising a specific cognitive function will improve that function. If one engages in tasks requiring working memory, such as holding and manipulating material in the mind for short periods of time, one will usually become stronger in that area”

Here are some free online resources that use the concept of puzzles to keep the brain sharp.

  • The National Institutes of Health provides a free resource for a variety of puzzles and brain teasers. Here you’ll find free access to matching games, word and number puzzles, rebus puzzles, word puzzles, and various riddles. 
  • Braingle has over 15,000 free brain teasers, puzzle hunts, codes & ciphers, and mechanical puzzles. There’s a huge variety here, including Language, Letter-Equations, Logic, Math, Optical-Illusions, Probability, and more.
  • WordCrunch is a free online word finder game with daily themes and progressive scoring.

When looking for “brain games” to help keep your brain sharp, it might be best to stay away from expensive software and apps that promise to “train your brain” with scientifically-proven methods. Sure, your brain needs a workout, but there’s not a lot of proof that a simple crossword puzzle is any less effective than specific “brain training” software.

To keep your brain sharp, focus on activities that target different areas of your brain such as problem solving, creative thinking, focus, and memory. Exercise your brain with activities you enjoy such as crossword puzzles, reading, or learning something new like an instrument or language.

Don’t be afraid to go old school. Pull out a crossword puzzle. Pull out a jigsaw puzzle. Online puzzles can be convenient, but nothing beats the mental strength it takes to put together a difficult puzzle, in person. 

Your brain controls your body, so a healthy brain can help lead to a healthier everything else. If the brain gets a proper workout, the benefits will trickle down. Don’t neglect your body’s most complex organ. 

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