As you age, cognitive functions start to weaken. Your ability to remember information, focus on the task at hand and think creatively and logically all start to slow down. That said, the right mental exercises can help improve your memory and, consequently, reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive illnesses. If you or a loved one is noticing an increasing inability to retain information, here are five activities you can do to combat memory decline.

Physical Exercise

An active lifestyle doesn’t just improve your physical health, it also improves your brain function. And it doesn’t take much to harness the mental benefits of exercise, either. By doing half an hour of cardiovascular exercise three times per week, your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and the corresponding memory loss drops significantly. Exercise increases the blood flow going into your brain, which stimulates brain cell growth. A common misconception is that you have to work out at an intense, athletic level, such as weightlifting twice your weight in the gym or signing up for a cross fit. You can trigger all the positive effects of exercise by simply going for a walk or riding your bicycle around the neighborhood.

Puzzles and Games

From crosswords to strategy video games, puzzles are a great way to keep your brain in tip-top shape. The more time you spend working through puzzles, especially during your early years, the more resilient your brain becomes against memory loss and, generally, cognitive decline as you age. When looking for assisted living options for your loved one, you are likely to stumble upon memory care vs nursing home. All else being equal, memory care facilities are often better at setting their residents up with memory-enhancing activities. These include animal therapy, movement and fitness courses, and even outdoor excursions to keep residents mentally and physically engaged.

Learn a New Language

Learning a second language isn’t just a good mental exercise, it’s also good for building relationships and traveling the world. Being fluent in Spanish, for instance, opens the opportunity to travel to 20+ countries, including Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Ecuador. It also doesn’t hurt your chances of making new friends or business partners if you know more than one language. But in terms of cognitive health, several studies have proven that bilingualism affords several mental benefits. It boosts memory retention, visual-spatial skills, and creativity. With apps like Duolingo, it’s also now easier more than ever to learn a new language.

Teach Someone Something

Learning a new skill and then teaching it to someone else is an effective way to cement that newfound information into your brain. Reading a book, in and of itself, is already a memory-enhancing experience. Teaching what you’ve learned to someone else can help magnify the mental improvements of this rudimentary activity. It detangles any confusion you have about a technical concept and improves your ability to form thoughts and communicate them clearly to your audience. These two processes require brainpower to effectively execute every time. If nothing else, teaching your family or friend a new skill also puts you in a good mood since you are helping them grow as well.

Take Up Creative Hobbies

Taking up new hobbies that inspire creativity broadens your skills and teaches you how to approach situations or problems from different angles. In short, it stimulates and engages your brain. Some hobbies that train your brain, as well as your motor skills, include knitting, embroidery, painting, drawing, and playing a musical instrument. All of these hobbies challenge you mentally while also requiring hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Learning how to play the ukulele, for instance, requires you to remember where to place your fingers to play exact chords to a song and know when exactly to move them.

Final Thoughts

The activities you choose to do daily will have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental health, particularly at your advanced age. Supplement the aforementioned activities with other healthy habits including adequate sleep and a well-balanced diet. Regardless of how much gains you get from the activities you do, the returns can get diminished by poor dietary choices or lack of sleep.