7 Brain Exercises That Improve Your Memory

  • Senior couple on swing
    Cross Train Your Brain
    It’s inevitable. As you get older your memory doesn’t function as well as it used to. The area of your brain that runs your memory center, the hippocampus, loses 5% of its nerve cells as each decade goes by. But there are steps you can take to keep your hippocampus active and building new memory networks. Just like with physical exercise, regular brain exercise can help you pump up your memory’s strength and stamina so it can enjoy a long, healthy life. Now you just have to remember where you left your crossword puzzle…

  • Senior woman painting
    1. Learning Something New
    A Swedish study discovered that adults who tackled learning a new language also got better at remembering people’s names and other easy-to-forget details. Learning and practicing anything new can have this effect. Language and music have been shown to produce great results for brain boosts, but you could also try knitting, dancing or sports. The secret is to do something that takes extra thought, memory and patience to learn. Also, be sure to pick an activity you enjoy so you’ll stick with it.

  • Senior man doing crossword puzzle
    2. Playing Games
    Video games, puzzles, playing cards: Any kind of game you play can help improve your memory and cognitive functioning. A study of young adults showed that brain-training games can have a big impact on working memory if played 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. But this training is great for any age. Low-tech options include crossword puzzles, sudoku and jigsaw puzzles. Keep challenging yourself and working harder puzzles to keep your mind in top shape. If you do crosswords, try word jumbles. If you like jigsaw puzzles, try turning over the pieces so you can’t see the image and only the shape. Or try memory games with friends, like the suitcase game: Plan an imaginary trip and list what you’re taking, always starting from the beginning and adding on. Everyone continues until your bag is overflowing—and your memory has had its full workout.

  • Woman shopping
    3. Using Mnemonic Devices
    Even simple tasks can be turned into a memory exercise. Take your grocery list, for example. Use mnemonic devices to try to remember your list without looking at it. One technique is to create an acronym of the first letters of the items. Apples, bread, orange juice and milk becomes ABOM. Or make up a song to remember the items on the list. You can also try chunking information and memorizing the list by different areas of the grocery store. Once you get good at groceries, challenge yourself to learn other lists like phone numbers, state capitals and presidents. Remember how good your memory was when you did that as a kid?

  • Woman with keys
    4. Practicing Mindfulness
    One smart tip for improving memory is to quit multitasking and be mindful of what you’re doing in the moment. If you ask your brain to do too many things at once, it can get confused. So if you need to remember where you put your keys, watch where you put them and say out loud to yourself “I put my keys on the kitchen table.” It takes eight seconds to remember a piece of information, so focus on the task at hand now so your brain’s better able to recall it later.

  • Older woman sleeping
    5. Recalling Your Day
    Here’s a brain game that will also help you sleep better. Turn your bedtime routine into a memory exercise. Close your eyes and try to remember each moment of your day from the minute you woke up until the second you went to bed. Focus on details like what you did, what you wore, whom you talked to, smells, sounds and tastes. If you do this regularly, you may notice you’ll naturally try to remember more details during the day so you can retell the story to your mind at night. This practice does wonders for your focus, concentration and memory recall.

  • Seniors performing yoga
    6. Focusing on Relaxation
    Brain games don’t have to be strenuous. Relaxing activities like tai chi and yoga actually challenge your brain while you chill out. It can be tough to remember all of those poses and you challenge your brain every time you practice. Much like puzzles, it’s important to keep upping the ante. Try practicing tai chi and yoga sequences backwards or in a different order.

  • Seniors being social
    7. Staying Social
    Studies of older people show that frequent social interaction can improve cognitive abilities and may even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If you can, participate in at least one brain exercise each week that involves other people. It could be anything from attending a lecture, playing card games with pals, or attending a foreign language conversation group. Plus, if you look forward to seeing your friends, you’ll be more likely to keep up with your brain-boosting activity.

7 Brain Exercises That Improve Your Memory

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
  1. Can computer games keep your brain fit? Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-computer-games-keep-your-brain-fit-201204264640
  2. Older adults with mild memory impairment still benefit from cognitive training in areas not reliant on memorization. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2007/11/older-adults-mild-memory-impairment-still-benefit-cognitive...
  3. The Search for Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/search-alzheimers-preve...
  4. Brain Training Game Boosts Executive Functions, Working Memory and Processing Speed in the Young Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566110/
  5. Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046518?pg=1
Was this helpful?
Last Review Date: 2018 Nov 17
Explore Brain and Nerves
Recommended Reading
Next Up
  • Keeping your brain in shape has major lifelong benefits like enhancing your memory, building new synapses, and possibly helping delay the onset of illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A neurologist treats disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves.  When you're facing serious conditions like stroke, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, or ALS, it's critical to find the right doctor for you.
  • Your brain and its memory function depend on good blood flow and healthy nerves to work well. To keep your arteries and brain cells healthy, get regular exercise and eat a nutritious diet. And be sure to include these memory-boosting foods.
Answers to Your Health Questions
Trending Videos