Kate Walsh is best known for her role as Addison Montgomery, the whip-smart neonatal surgeon, on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but she’s just as committed to keeping her brain sharp in real life. “Memorizing lines is one way [I exercise my brain], also by drawing and coloring. Crosswords are always great. I think reading is great—reading actual books, not tablets. It slows down your eyes again, and makes you process — that’s just very healthy for the brain,” she told Coveteur.com.
Walsh is definitely onto something. In the past, it was thought that the brain doesn’t change, meaning memory loss and other effects of aging were deemed inevitable. But more recently, researchers are confirming that it’s possible to create new signals between brain cells and even create new cells—a term called “neurological plasticity.” And exercising your mind is one great way to maintain a healthy and optimally functioning brain.
According to a Harvard Health blog post, you should engage in “mental gymnastics,” such as puzzles, math problems, painting, and crafts to keep your brain as agile as possible.
A study published in 2000 found that people who challenge their brains with activities such as reading or playing chess were 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who didn’t stimulate their grey matter. And in a 2013 paper, it was shown that reading helps decelerate memory loss and brain function.
On top of that, engaging in something new — anything that takes you out of your comfort zone — is great for the brain. “Be open to new experiences that cause you to see the world and do things differently,” Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the Harvard Health blog. This can include learning a new instrument or language and traveling.