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New Book: Fun Workouts For the Brain


Fun Workouts for the Brain

"Like your body, your brain gets ‘flabby’ if you don’t keep it active," says the author of a new book designed to boost your brain’s performance.

Ian Robertson’s book Puzzler Brain Trainer 90-Day Workout (Carlton Books) is chock-full of activities to stretch, sharpen and stimulate the brain. But best of all, the exercises are fun. And all you need to get started is a pencil.

Robertson is an international expert on brain rehabilitation, professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, and founding director of the university’s Institute of Neuroscience.

Billed as workouts for people of all ages, this 224-page volume offers warm-ups, 90 daily workouts (four/five exercises per double page) and cool-downs. Add to that, a host of techniques such as the "mental walk" to aid memory and "taking five" to help absent-mindedness. There are also tests to make sure you’re keeping up and tips and hints to keep you motivated.

Robertson, who has been studying the brain for 25 years, points out brain fitness depends on a willingness to keep on learning and to welcoming both challenge and change into your life. Here’s why:

Challenge: Different exercises are required to challenge different parts of the brain. For example, if your work involves words, discussion and negotiation, then you will be fully exercising the language parts of your brain. But you may need to add special exercises to keep the visual-spatial parts of the brain in top working order. "It’s important to keep your whole brain stimulated with a variety of activities, and to keep this going throughout your life," Robertson says.

Change: In the too-ing and fro-ing of every day life, it’s easy to get stuck in old habits and routines and our brains drift into automatic pilot. "A great way of keeping the front part of the brain from becoming lazy is by programming a certain number of new experiences into your daily life," says Robertson. Even small things count, like taking another route to work, going to a different grocery store, adding some new food item to your diet or exploring a part of the city you don’t know.

Learning: The neurons in the brain – about 100 billion – connect to one another through "leaves" on treelike branches. And learning something new, doing tai chi or setting up a website, causes these branches to grow and bloom with new buds. In a nutshell, the aging brain is constantly adapting and rewiring itself and growing new neurons. In the words of the author: "No matter how old we are, our brains are physically changed by what we do and what we think."