Train your brain: How to keep your mind sharp as you age

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns in many regions across the country, people are limited to activities they can do safely. While physical activity is important to keeping our bodies healthy, cognitive exercises can help keep our minds sharp.

Cognitive functions can be divided into four main categories, with each serving a different purpose: memory, attention, executive function, and visual-spatial ability. Any of these areas can be affected as we age, but there are exercises for the brain that may help delay age-related brain drain.

What types of activities can you do?

Cognitive-based training activities can help improve various aspects of cognitive function in healthy older adults. Video games, physical activity, computerized training, and visual or auditory tasks are examples of cognitive-based training.

How often should you do them?

The optimal frequency and duration that you should be engaging in cognitive-based training may vary depending on the area of cognition being targeted. For instance, training is more effective for executive function if performed at least three times a week for 24 or more sessions, and for at least eight weeks for attention. 

Combine physical activity and brain training to boost effectiveness

Do you want an extra boost? Try combining physical activity, such as aerobic exercise or strength training, with brain training. Research has shown that this combined strategy has the potential to be more effective at improving cognitive function in older adults. Tai chi, dance, and video games that involve exercise are a few examples of how you can engage in activities for your body and mind simultaneously.   


Keeping our minds sharp as we get older, and as we continue to navigate the pandemic, is important for healthy aging. Incorporate cognitive-based training activities into your routine, and for an added boost, combine them simultaneously with physical exercise. It may be just what you need to keep your brain in shape!

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DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.