Exercise Your Brain: Learn New Skills

It is normal to become forgetful from time to time, especially as you get older.  Who hasnít forgotten where the keys or glasses are?  We laugh about these ìsenior moments,î but the natural mental decline that occurs when you age can be worrisome.

One of the best ways to keep your mind young is to learn something new.  When you try a new skill, the connections between the parts of your brain are strengthened and re-wired to be more active.  The more you use your brain, the better it performs, and the more difficult the activity, the greater the memory improvement

Here are some ways to exercise your brain.

Learn a musical instrument.  A recent TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) presentation by educator Anita Collins explained that when you listen to
music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active.  When you play an instrument, that activity becomes a full-body brain workout.  Research shows that playing a musical instrument stimulates your brain, increases your memory and makes you a happier person.

Master new technology.  If an activity is out of your comfort zone, it will exercise your brain.  Mastering a video game, for example, helps to train critical thinking skills.  A Mayo Clinic study found that regular computer use reduced the risk of mild cognitive impairment by 53 percent.

Learn a language.  Learning a new language enlarges your hippocampus, which can deteriorate as you age.  This helps with long-term memory.  The Brain and Language Journal pointed out that switching between languages may give your brain a workout because it constantly has to choose between words and meanings.  Research in The Annals of Neurology shows that learning a second language as an adult can slow brain decline.  Try listening to music or reading a book in your new language.

Learn to dance.  A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 76 percent of senior citizens who learned to dance had a reduced risk of dementia.  Dancing can also boost your brainpower and improve your memory skills.  Your body gets a great workout, too!

Start a hobby or craft.  A new skill keeps your brain active.  Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that learning a new creative hobby helped reduce the risk of dementia and preserve memory.  Learn to play chess or join a photography club.  Become fully immersed in the process to boost your memory and cognitive function.

Read.  The mental stimulation strengthens and creates new brain pathways while improving short-term memory recall.  For a change of pace, try reading books from a different genre than you usually do.