Long-Term Brain Training: Benefits and Strategies
As people age, they may experience a decline in cognitive function, leading to an increased risk of dementia. Brain training exercises, however, can help improve cognitive function and reduce cognitive decline.
Research has investigated both the short-term and long-term effects of brain exercises. This article explores the effectiveness of long-term brain training for improving cognitive function and reducing dementia risk.
What is Long-Term Engagement in Brain Training Exercises?
Cognitive stimulation exercises that last over a long period of time, usually months or years, are long-term brain training exercises. These exercises may include memory games, attention exercises, problem-solving exercises, or other activities.
Some studies have defined long-term engagement for at least six months, while others have used longer durations, such as two years or more. Engagement duration varies based on study design and particular program.
The Effectiveness of Long-Term Cognitive Exercises
Research has shown that engaging in brain exercises can positively impact cognitive function, and recent studies have begun to investigate the effects of long-term engagement in these exercises. For instance:
Improvement in Cognitive Function
Several studies have shown that long-term brain training exercises can improve cognitive function. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older adults who engaged in computerized cognitive training for ten years significantly improved memory and processing speed compared to a control group.
Reduced Dementia Risk
Long-term engagement in brain exercises has also been associated with a reduced risk of dementia. In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, cognitive training reduced dementia risk by 29% in older adults over ten years. The Journal of Alzheimer’s reported that cognitive stimulation exercises reduced dementia risk in individuals with mild cognitive impairment by 50% after two years.
Mechanisms of Action
The exact mechanisms by which long-term engagement in brain training exercises led to improved cognitive function and reduced dementia risk are not fully understood. However, some studies have suggested that brain exercises may help to increase neural plasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to new stimuli. Other studies have suggested that brain exercises may help to improve cognitive reserve or the brain’s ability to compensate for age-related cognitive decline.
Challenges of Long-Term Brain Training
Long-term engagement in brain training has been shown to boost cognitive function and reduce dementia risk, but maintaining attention can be challenging.
One challenge is that individuals may experience fatigue or boredom with the same exercises over time, leading to decreased engagement. To address this challenge, some brain training programs offer various exercises or allow for customization based on an individual’s preferences and abilities.
Another challenge is the cost and accessibility of some brain training programs. Some programs may be expensive, making them inaccessible to individuals with limited financial resources. Additionally, some programs may require specialized equipment or technology, which can be a barrier for individuals who need access to these resources.
Finally, maintaining long-term engagement in brain exercises may require significant motivation and commitment from individuals. Some individuals may need help maintaining concentration if they are still waiting to see immediate results or become discouraged by the slow pace of progress.
Strategies for Maintaining Long-Term Engagement in Brain Exercises
There are strategies that individuals can use to improve their chances of success. Here are some tips for maintaining long-term engagement:
Choosing a pleasant and enjoyable program is a significant factor in maintaining long-term engagement. Individuals may be more likely to stick with a program if they find it fun and exciting.
Vary the types of exercises: Changing practices can prevent boredom or fatigue. Most brain training programs include a variety of exercises, and some can be customized.
Set realistic goals: Setting realistic goals can help individuals to maintain motivation and stay engaged over an extended period. Planning should be challenging but achievable, and participants should celebrate their progress.
Incorporate brain training into daily life: Individuals may benefit from incorporating brain training exercises into their daily routines. For example, they could engage in memory exercises while doing household chores or practice attention tasks during their daily commute.
Seek social support: Social support can make staying motivated and engaged easier. You may benefit from joining a brain training group or participating in online forums related to brain training.
Brain training may help improve cognitive function. Engaging in these exercises for months or years can improve cognitive function and may reduce dementia risk.
I read somewhere that things we call brain training, like doing the Sudoku or crosswords, can only increase our ability in doing Sudoku and crosswords. They cannot magically power up your brain so you don’t get dementia, especially if it runs in your genes.
I wish I knew this before I turn 70!
It’s never too late!
I don’t consider cost and accessibility as a challenge. There are lots of brain training methods that are free, like reading and playing board games.