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When we think “exercise,” our mind automatically goes to physical activity, like running, lifting weights, or playing a sport. But our brains need exercise, too. You may not even realize that you’re already exercising your brain through everyday, seemingly mundane activities. But there are additional ways to improve your brain’s long-term health. Here are 10 of the best brain exercises you can start right now.

Learn a Foreign Language

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According to Everyday Health, learning a foreign language stimulates the brain and developing a diverse vocabulary can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. So challenge your brain to break a language boundary.

Learn to Play a New Instrument

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Now you have an excuse to finally learn how to play the piano, guitar, or any other instrument you’ve been putting off. The complex nature of learning a new instrument over a long period of time is healthy for the aging mind, says Everyday Health. So procrastinate no longer!

Draw a Map from Memory

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How well do you know your town or neighborhood? Put your brain’s memory to work and draw a map of where you live completely from memory. Be as specific in your drawing as possible, including street names and local landmarks. When you’re done, see how your map compares to the real thing. Once you’ve mastered it, try drawing maps of less familiar places. Very Well Mind says this exercise keeps your memory sharp.

Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

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Are you right-handed? Try using your left hand when eating or writing. Neurobiologist Lawrence Katz says this simple but difficult exercise increases brain activity and strengthens your mind. Just make sure you do it somewhere you won’t be embarrassed to write squiggly lines or drop your food a couple times!

Meditate

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Meditation has been around for ages, but it’s only recently getting the attention it deserves, and with good reason. When you meditate, you bring yourself into the present moment through mindfulness, which, according to Very Well Mind, engages new neural pathways. It can improve your self-observational skills, mental flexibility, memory, attention, focus, empathy, and even immunity. Plus, you feel REALLY good after you meditate.

Use All Your Sense Simultaneously

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Activities like traveling, camping, gardening, and cooking put all your senses to work, which stimulates your brain. Explore activities like these to keep your brain sharp and in tune with all your senses.

Socialize More

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This exercise may be intimidating or disliked by introverts, but if none of the other brain exercises appeal to you, try getting out of your comfort zone and socializing more. According to Breaking Muscle, socializing helps stimulate the brain and decrease cognitive and physical limitations later in life. Social interactions force your brain to pay attention and react to the people around you, giving it a nice workout.

Do Some Aerobic Exercises

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Mental and cognitive exercises aren’t the only way to work out your brain. Physical exercise is healthy for your brain as well. Medical News Today says physical exercise, especially aerobics, has been proven to increase brain volume, which is good for short-term memory and cognitive function. So don’t neglect your physical exercise routine.

Play Some Cognitive Games

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If you really want to improve your brain’s memory, put it through some hardcore training with cognitively challenging games like Tetris, crossword puzzles, and brain-geared mobile apps. Healthline says a study found that adults with mild cognitive impairment improved their memory after playing games on a brain-training app for eight hours over a four-week period. Playing these kinds of games also helps improve problem-solving skills. Game on!

Become an Avid Reader

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Reading isn’t just for bookworms and school. It can have multiple positive effects on the brain, including stress relief, better brain function, increased empathy, and improved memory. You can be entertained and educated while simultaneously working out your brain.

Maintaining physical fitness is important, but we shouldn’t neglect our cognitive health. As we age, our brains start to tire out, if not properly cared for. Start an exercise routine for your brain today. Your brain will thank you.

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