Many people are devoted to exercise to bulk up their bodies, but the phrase “use it or lose it” applies to more than just the muscles in bodies—it also applies to the neural pathways and connections in brains. There are a variety of brain exercises and activities that can successfully work each of the brain’s five major cognitive functions on a daily basis. It’s important to challenge, stimulate and effectively exercise all five areas to stay mentally sharp as brains age. Here are five daily brain exercises that can help do this.

• Memory: Memory plays a crucial role in all cognitive activities, including reading, reasoning and mental calculation. There are several types of memory at work in the brain. Taken together, these are the cognitive skills people may notice most when they begin to fail. To maintain a good memory, people need to train for it, which can be easier than it seems. Listening to music is not only enjoyable, but by choosing an unfamiliar song and memorizing the lyrics, the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build the brain, is boosted, and memory skills are improved. People can challenge themselves even more by showering or getting dressed in the dark or using their opposite hand to brush their teeth. These challenges help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.

• Attention: Attention is necessary in nearly all daily tasks. Good attention enables people to maintain concentration despite noise and distractions and to focus on several activities at once. Folks can improve their attention by simply changing their routines. Change the route to work or reorganize a desk—both will force the brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again. As people age, their attention span can decrease, making them more susceptible to distraction and less efficient at multitasking. Combining activities like listening to an audio book with jogging, or doing math in one’s head while driving, forces the brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time.

• Language: Language activities will challenge the ability to recognize, remember and understand words. They also exercise fluency, grammatical skills and vocabulary. With regular practice, people can expand their knowledge of new words and much more easily retrieve words that are familiar. For example, if someone usually only thoroughly reads the sports section, they should try reading a few in-depth business articles. They’ll be exposed to new words, which are easier to understand when read in context or easier to look up on a dictionary site if they are reading the news online. They should take time to understand the word in its context, which will help them build their language skills and retrieve the word more readily in front of their boss in the future.

• Visual-Spatial: Humans live in a colorful, three-dimensional world. Analyzing visual information is necessary to be able to act within the environment. To work this cognitive function, try walking into a room and picking out five items and their locations. When exiting the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Too easy? Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations. Waiting on a coworker or friend to arrive? Try this mental exercise. Look straight ahead and note everything that can been seen both in front and in peripheral vision. Recall everything and write it down. This will force the use of memory and train the brain to focus on surroundings.

• Executive Function: Without even realizing it, people use their logic and reasoning skills on a daily basis to make decisions, build up hypotheses and consider the possible consequences of their actions. Activities in which people must define a strategy to reach a desired outcome and calculate the right moves to reach the solution in the shortest possible time are actually fun activities they do daily—like social interaction and, yes, video games. Engaging in a brief visit with a friend boosts people’s intellectual performance by requiring them to consider possible responses and desired outcomes. Video games require strategy and problem-solving to reach a desired outcome—like making it to the final level.

Keeping on track with exercises like these could ensure the brain and its activities stay sharp and on target.

© 2019 Silver Disobedience Inc.