What’s even better for your brain than crossword puzzles?

If you’ve been doing wordle, crossword puzzles or Sudoku to sharpen your cognitive skills, (or even if you haven’t!) you might be interested in the recent research review that examined 72 studies (including literature reviews and meta-analytic reviews) to clarify the relationship between exercise and cognition.

As reported in the March-April 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal, the investigators concluded that skill acquisition,whether combined with physical energy expenditure or not, offers the largest cognitive benefit.  It’s all about learning new skills!  Examples of physical activity that includes skill acquisition would be learning a new sport like golf, or learning and practicing new dance moves.

On the other hand, even exercise that does not stimulate skill development (like sitting on a stationary bicycle) can increase cerebrovascular (blood vessels in the cerebrum) and neurotrophic factors (improving the health of the nerves in your brain) benefitting what some researchers describe as “brain hardware.”  Adding skill development also benefits “brain software,” that improves both physical brain health and cognitive performance.

Find the study in the American Psychological Association’s “Psychological Bulletin (2019; 145 {9}, 929-51).

In other words, physical activities that challenge your mind offer even more benefits, so after you finish your beloved crossword puzzle,  try  learning something new!  Your body and your brain will love you for it!


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