How Staying Mentally Fit Can Make a Difference
Your brain isn’t a muscle, but you can treat it like one
Many people focus on physical fitness, but few know that brain fitness is also something you can work on. In fact, you can exercise your brain as often as you would your arms or abs–and the results can be positive and empowering.
It’s helpful to think of your brain as you would a muscle. To improve your brain, you can’t simply repeat the same exercises over and over. Just as lifting a two pound weight will cease to challenge you, so will repetitive exercises such as crosswords or Sudoku. Once you master easy exercises, you must move on to harder ones in order to push your brain—like your muscles—to a new level.
This is based on your brain’s innate neuroplasticity, or its ability to grow and change in response to new challenges. In other words, the right types of stimulating exercises can physically change your brain.
The science behind brain training
Scientists once believed that your mental abilities were fixed in adulthood. Now that studies on neuroplasticity have shown just the opposite, millions of people around the world have adopted the new practice of brain training.
The most popular of these brain training products is made by the San Francisco-based Lumosity, which employs a team of in-house neuroscientists with degrees from Stanford and UC Berkeley.
Realizing that brains need more sophisticated programs and guidance to grow and change, Lumosity’s scientists work with an experienced team of game designers. Together they’ve developed a fun, effective online brain training program that measure, tracks, and adapts to your progress so you’ll always be challenged.
Lumosity’s training algorithm and 40+ games are based on well-studied tests used in clinical neuropsychology research.
Promising studies on the effects of brain training
In a 2013 Stanford study, a treatment group of 21 breast cancer survivors used 12 weeks of Lumosity training to work on processing speed, mental flexibility, and working memory tasks. On average, those who trained improved on tests of these abilities, compared to a group that did not train with Lumosity.
There is even some preliminary evidence suggesting that Lumosity may be beneficial to normal, healthy adults. In a 2011 study by Lumosity and San Francisco State University researchers, 13 people who did Lumosity training over 5 weeks improved on tests of brain performance compared to a group that did not train. On average, those who trained improved working memory scores by 10% and attention scores by 20%.
Brain training is designed to address real-life needs
The goal of brain training is not to improve game scores: it’s to improve the underlying core abilities that those games rely on. Neuroscientists like those at Lumosity design brain games meant to translate into real-life benefits; with continued testing and research, the body of evidence behind brain training continues to grow.
Better attention, for example, can mean greater focus in the classroom or at an important business meeting. With improved processing speed, you might react and adapt faster to the demands of a busy life. And a better memory could mean stronger, longer relationships with the people closest to you.
Brain training is an investment
Training can take just a few minutes a day, but the rewards can make a difference in many aspects of life.