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10 Ways Playing Games Keep You Young

A good puzzle can make you feel like a kid again.

We might be getting older by the minute, but that doesn't mean we have to feel that way. With the right habits and daily practices, we can both maintain our childlike sense of wonder and keep our minds sharp. Looking for the easiest—and most fun—habit to adopt to feel like you're still in your 20s? Well, it may be time to become a gamer.

Yes, believe it or not, board games, video games, puzzles, and riddles have been proven to improve your memory, ward off Alzheimer's, and more. Read on for the ways in which playing games keeps you young!

They keep your reflexes sharp.

Couple Playing Video Games

It might seem more like a Christmas present for a teenager, but you should consider getting an Xbox or PlayStation for the older folks in your life this holiday season. Why? A 2008 study published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that playing video games can help older adults maintain their cognitive function, specifically bouncing from task to task.

They delay the onset of Alzheimer's.

man and boy doing puzzle together, ways to feel amazing

Doctors are only just beginning to understand the development of Alzheimer's disease, but keeping the brain active has been proven to lower a person's risk. And one of the best ways to do that is playing games. Even something as simple as a jigsaw puzzle can increase brain activity. Specifically, a 2012 study published in JAMA Neurology found that putting a puzzle together can lower levels of beta-amyloid, a protein that interferes with brain function and can eventually lead to Alzheimer's.

They improve your memory.

hobbies for your 40s

Chess is considered a "brainy" game for a reason: Not only does it require skill, but it can also improve your memory. In a 2017 study published in the Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, researchers found that chess pros were better able to remember things they heard compared to those who weren't chess experts.

They sharpen your senses.

Kids Playing Musical Chairs

In addition to making you feel like a kid again, playing simple games that require sensory stimulation—like musical chairs—can help you sharpen both your cognitive and motor responses. The five senses are also strongly linked to memory, so keeping them active can help with memory retention and recollection.

They help you connect the dots.

People Solving Riddle

While games like chess require linear, logical thinking, riddles require a different kind of mental function—linking imagination and memory. Finding the connection between a riddle and its answer forces you to combine ideas in new ways, which keeps your brain active by strengthening the connection between neurons.

They maintain your motor skills.

board games for couples, ways to feel amazing

As we get older, we can begin to develop tremors and other impairments that can turn the everyday tasks of buttoning a shirt or picking up keys into obstacles. However, practicing fine motor skills by playing board games can help keep your coordination intact. A landmark 1993 study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy on board games found that they do, in fact, "improve the perceptual, cognitive, sensory, and fine motor skill components of occupational behavior."

They help you exercise longer.

grandparents playing wii fit

Although the Wii Fit was not exactly the fat-busting revolution that Nintendo intended, the video game platform tapped into some very real principles that can help encourage healthy behavior. For example, a 2009 study at Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab found that people who saw virtual representations of themselves exercising alongside them—like a Mii figure on the Wii—tended to exercise longer than others. If that little digital avatar can do it, so can you!

They keep you flexible.

mom and son playing twister

If you've ever taken part in a game of Twister, you've helped maintain your flexibility without even knowing it. Games like this that require stretching can play a huge role in keeping your muscles and joints loose as you age—and since decreased flexibility can shorten step length, decrease walking speed, and increase risk of falling, partaking in a hands-on game like this might be just what the doctor ordered.

They can help you kick your nicotine addiction.

board game

If there's one thing that can undoubtedly help you stay looking and feeling young, it's ditching tobacco. And though you probably can't quit smoking cold turkey after a single game of checkers, there is scientific evidence that game play can help bust addiction-related cravings. A 2014 study co-sponsored by the American Cancer Society showed that playing a novel two-player game with a romantic partner activated the same areas of the brain as nicotine, helping smokers curb cigarette cravings. 

They boost your creativity.

halloween games pumpkin tick tac toe

When most people think about tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons, they image a bunch of teenagers talking incomprehensibly about mystical creatures. However, playing games like these can actually keep you young by forcing you to be creative, which in turn can reduce feelings of depression and help manage chronic pain. And if you want to live a long and happy life, check out these 100 Ways to Live to 100.

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Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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