Engaging Activities May Help Delay the Onset of Cognitive Decline

If you're looking for a mentally challenging activity to become involved in, try one or more of the suggestions listed below. Activities you genuinely enjoy will be the most fruitful, since you'll engage in them more often and without any prodding. In addition, try to choose intellectual activities that also incorporate social or physical activity. Research suggests that these are most beneficial for delaying dementia.

Card games, board games, and jigsaw puzzles can be simple or advanced. When pursued in a group, they offer social activity.

Gardening, planting seeds, and yard care are great for the incorporation of mental and physical activity while enjoying the outdoors. An added bonus is the possibility of fresh-grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs for meals; a healthy diet may help keep dementia at bay.

Reading is a time-honored way to keep your mind active. Reading to someone else or joining a book group makes the activity more social.

Crossword puzzles, brainteasers, and Sudoku are other easy, inexpensive ways to challenge your mind, although they tend to be solitary activities.

Pets are great companions and playing with them, especially when it involves teaching tricks, engages the mind and can involve physical activity, too.

Cooking can be mentally stimulating, particularly when it involves a new recipe. And a cooking class has a social aspect.

Artistic pursuits, whether painting or drawing, sculpture, photography, or handicrafts, let you use your brain in a more creative way than some other endeavors. Again, taking a class adds a social dimension.

Internet searching, according to a 2009 study from the University of California, Los Angeles, triggers activity in key areas of the brain involved in complex reasoning. Using e-mail, chat rooms, and forums adds a social element to computer use.

Volunteering is another activity that involves both mental and social activity. In 2009, Johns Hopkins researchers reported that older volunteers who helped elementary school children with reading and other skills had increased activity in areas of the brain responsible for higher-level thinking.

Theater, museums, concerts, and lectures can challenge your mind with new sights, sounds, and perspectives.

Home improvement, whether it is as simple as replacing a switch plate or as advanced as tiling or woodwork, stimulates your mind. To add the social element, take a class to learn a new home improvement skill.

Writing fiction, poetry, memoirs, or even a letter is a mentally stimulating activity that has many rewards and can be undertaken with nothing more than a pen and paper.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 16 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 01 Dec 2014