Skip to content

    Brain & Nervous System Health Center

    Font Size

    How to Keep Your Brain Fit for Life

    By Amanda MacMillan
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD

    Just like your muscles need exercise, your brain needs mental workouts to stay in shape.

    But your gray matter gets so good at doing your daily routine that it barely has to work at it. So, you have to go above and beyond your everyday activities to stimulate it. That can help you prevent or reverse memory loss as you age, research suggests.

    Recommended Related to Brain & Nervous System

    Dystonia: Causes, Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

    Dystonia is a movement disorder in which a person's muscles contract uncontrollably. The contraction causes the affected body part to twist involuntarily, resulting in repetitive movements or abnormal postures. Dystonia can affect one muscle, a muscle group, or the entire body. Dystonia affects about 1% of the population, and women are more prone to it than men.

    Read the Dystonia: Causes, Types, Symptoms, and Treatments article > >

    Whether you're young and want to stay sharp for as long as possible, or you're getting older and are concerned about conditions like dementia, you can do a few things to protect your brain and boost your mental abilities.

    Use It or Lose It

    Keep your mind active. Stay involved in pastimes that make you think on several levels. It’s not enough to mindlessly flip through TV channels, surf the web, or scroll through Facebook.

    "We spend too much time on low-level activities that drain the brain," says Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. "Instead, take information in, combine it with the rich knowledge already stored in your brain, and transform it into new ideas."

    Do this on a regular basis to strengthen the networks in your brain. This can help keep you quick-witted for years to come.

    Read or Watch, Then Discuss

    Reading a book or even watching TV or movies can be good for your brain -- if you learn something new and think it over afterward. Even better, talk about it with other people, says Norman S. Werdiger, MD, associate clinical professor of neurology at Yale. This helps you make sense of the information on a deeper level.

    Talking with other people has its own brain-boosting benefits. You could join a book club or have friends over to watch a movie, then discuss it

    "When you have conversations with other people, you're getting feedback from them on how you're doing mentally," Werdiger says, "and you're forced to consider what you're saying and how you're behaving."

    This is especially important for older people who spend a lot of time alone. Try to see friends or family regularly to avoid loneliness and depression, which have been linked to lower brain function.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    nerve damage
    Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
    senior woman with lost expression
    Know the early warning signs.
    woman in art gallery
    Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
    medical marijuana plant
    What is it used for?
    senior man
    boy hits soccer ball with head
    red and white swirl
    marijuana plant
    brain illustration stroke
    nerve damage
    Alzheimers Overview
    Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix