Science-Backed Exercises You Can Do Everyday to Boost Brain Power

Science-Backed Exercises You Can Do Everyday to Boost Brain Power

Science-Backed Exercises You Can Do Everyday to Boost Brain Power 

Do you ever feel like your brain could use a good workout just like your body? Well, you're in luck! Just like our muscles need exercise, our brains thrive when challenged with daily mental stimulation. From puzzles to social activities, there are many quick and easy ways to flex your gray matter without hours of studying. 

Keeping your brain fit doesn't need to be boring or time-consuming. Whether you have 5 minutes or a half hour, these fun exercise ideas can energize your neurons and sharpen your thinking skills throughout your day. You'll be amazed at how engaged, focused, and mentally refreshed you feel. 

So are you ready to get your brain into shape? Let's explore some fun and simple brain exercises you can try right now! 

Aerobic Exercise 

Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is one of the most effective ways to boost brain power[1]. Activities like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing get your heart rate up and increase blood flow throughout the body and to the brain. More oxygen-rich blood helps brain cells to function optimally and promotes the growth of new brain cells[1]

Aim for at least 30-40 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 3-5 days per week. This could be a dedicated workout session, or activities woven throughout your day like a brisk morning walk, taking the stairs, or doing household chores at an energetic pace. Aerobic exercise has been shown to[1]

  • Increase the volume of the hippocampus, the area of the brain critical for memory. 
  • Increase production and efficiency of brain neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which boost mood, motivation, and focus. 
  • Reduce inflammation in the brain that can impair cognition if unchecked. 
  • Stimulate neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change, grow new neural connections and adapt throughout life. 

So lace up your walking shoes, hop on your bike, turn on your favorite tunes or podcast, and get moving! 

Research suggests that regular swimming can improve memory, cognitive function, immune response, and mood.

Puzzles and Brain-Training Games

Puzzles, brain games, and cognitive training exercises can sharpen a variety of mental skills[2][3]. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word searches, matching games, concentration-style card games, and brain-training apps challenge your brain in different ways to support better learning, memory retention, and flexible thinking. 

Aim to spend 5-15 minutes daily doing an engaging brain-boosting activity of your choice. You can switch it up each day to keep your brain agile. Over time, you may find yourself getting faster and more accurate at these activities. Possible options include[2][3]

  • Sudoku or math puzzles – enhance concentration, logical thinking, and pattern recognition. 
  • Crossword puzzles – build vocabulary, word recall, and general knowledge. 
  • Memory matching games – boost visual memory and attention to detail. 
  • Brain training apps – improve processing speed, memory, problem-solving skills, and more. 

A Large-Scale, Cross-Sectional Investigation Into the Efficacy of Brain Training 

Here are some key facts, stats, and summary points from the study[2]

  • The study analyzed data from two large Internet-cohort studies totaling 60,222 participants to examine the relationship between brain training and cognitive performance. 
  • In Cohort 1 (N=44,780), 2,833 participants reported regularly using a brain training program. Regular video game players showed significantly higher global, working memory, and reasoning scores compared to non-gamers. The effect of brain training was small. 
  • In Cohort 2 (N=15,442), 3,917 participants reported brain training. Belief in brain training's efficacy scaled linearly with the strength of religious belief. 
  • Most cognitive pursuits like video games, board games, cards, and puzzles showed significant positive relationships with global cognitive performance when the frequency was factored in. Brain training showed a small disadvantage for those training daily. 
  • New brain trainers started at a lower cognitive baseline, particularly those training daily. Performance tracked upward linearly as a function of longer training duration. 
  • Weekly training for over a year showed the highest cognitive scores, up 0.32 SD from non-trainers. Significant effects of duration and frequency were found for different cognitive domains. 
  • Small differences in cognitive performance were found between common brain training devices/packages, but the effects were negligible. 
  • The study provides some evidence that brain training may be effective over long durations and high frequencies, particularly for operationally similar tasks, but other cognitive pursuits showed equal or greater benefits.

Look for brain games that adapt to your skill level so you continue challenging yourself. Vary the types of puzzles to activate different parts of your brain. Doing these exercises daily strengthens connections between brain cells to sharpen key cognitive abilities with lasting results. 

Learn Something New 

Exposing your brain to novel and complex concepts keeps your neural connections flexible and strong. Learning strengthens communication between brain areas involved in focus, logic, reasoning, coordination, emotions, and memory[4]. As we age, the plasticity of 

connections between neurons naturally declines, so continuing to learn new things helps counteract this process. 

Aim to spend 10-20 minutes per day gaining knowledge in an area unfamiliar to you. Great options include[4][5]

  • Learning a new language – enhances concentration, memory, listening skills, multitasking,, and even decision-making. Try a language app that makes it fun. 
  • Reading about a new topic – build your knowledge base while sharpening focus and reading comprehension. 
  • Learning a new skill – challenges coordination between brain areas as you intake new information and physically practice movements. Try an instrument, martial arts, painting, carpentry, knitting – anything out of your comfort zone! 
  • Playing a new game – chess, bridge, mah-jongg, and other strategy games makes you think flexibly, plan moves, and anticipate multiple scenarios. 

Look for subjects that genuinely interest you so learning feels fun versus frustrating. As concepts start to click and skills improve with practice, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment along with enjoying a brain power boost! 


Quieting your mind while meditating brings powerful cognitive benefits supported by decades of research. As little as 5-10 minutes per day can improve your ability to concentrate, recall information, plan ahead, juggle multiple tasks, and filter out distractions. 

Aim to meditate for 5-15 minutes daily. Here’s how[6]

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight – on the floor or in a chair. 
  • Breathe naturally and close your eyes. 
  • Focus fully on your breath as it goes in and out. 
  • As thoughts pop up, simply observe them, then return your attention gently back to your breath. 
  • When time is up, take some cleansing breaths before slowly opening your eyes.

Meditation strengthens neural pathways involved with executive function and attention. It reduces mind wandering and improves visuospatial processing, working memory, problem-solving, verbal reasoning, and more. Researchers have found brain size actually increases in certain areas with regular meditation practice. 

Meditation and Music Improve Memory and Cognitive Function in Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial 

Here are some key facts, statistics, and a summary from the study[6]

  • Currently, there are no approved treatments for early memory loss or SCD. Meditation and music interventions may offer promising alternative treatment options. 
  • This study randomized 60 adults aged 50-84 with SCD to 12 weeks of Kirtan Kriya meditation (KK) or music listening (ML), 12 minutes daily. Participants completed assessments at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months. 
  • Adherence was high at 93% in weeks 1-12 and 71% in months 3-6. Retention was 88% through 6 months with no differences between groups. 
  • Both groups showed significant improvements from baseline to 3 months on measures of memory (MFQ), executive function (TMT-A/B), and processing speed/attention (DSST), with effect sizes ranging from medium to large. 
  • Gains were maintained or further improved at 6 months. Improvements were not related to expectancies and did not differ by demographic or clinical factors. 
  • Reduced memory concerns at 6 months correlated with improvements on MFQ subscales, but not cognitive performance measures. DSST improvements correlated with adherence and TMT scores. 

In summary, this pilot RCT found that both KK meditation and ML significantly improved subjective memory, executive function, and processing speed in adults with SCD, suggesting these mind-body interventions may offer promise for improving outcomes in this at-risk population. Larger controlled trials are still needed. 

Meditation enhances memory, attention, and mood by increasing serotonin production, and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Get Quality Sleep 

You spend about a third of your life sleeping – make sure that time is optimized to boost your brain power. Most neuroscientists and sleep experts recommend adults get 7-9 hours per night for peak performance and health; children and teens need even more[7][8]. Quality sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, concentration, problem-solving, decision-making, and emotional regulation. 

Make getting sufficient quality sleep a high priority. Here are tips[7][8]

  • Stick to consistent bed/wake times, including weekends so your circadian rhythm anchors to an aligned cycle.
  • Make your sleep sanctuary cool, dark, and quiet – block out light/noise, and keep the temperature around 65° Fahrenheit. Consider blackout curtains, a white noise app, and a cooling mattress if needed. 
  • Avoid screens for 1-2 hours pre-bedtime as blue light exposure inhibits natural melatonin release and disrupts optimal sleep architecture. 
  • Develop a relaxing pre-bed routine: take a bath, read, and listen to soothing music. 
  • Save your bedroom for sleep/intimacy only so your brain associates it with rest, not wakeful activities. 

Getting consistent, high-quality sleep ensures you awake feeling refreshed and energized for peak mental and physical performance all day. 

Eat Brain-Boosting Foods 

Nutrition powerfully impacts cognitive health and function at all life stages. The foods you regularly eat supply essential energy and nutrients that affect brain cell signaling, protect against free radical damage, influence neurotransmitters, and impact vascular health. 

Make it a daily habit to incorporate brain-boosting foods like[9][10][11]

  • Leafy green vegetables - Rich in vitamin K, lutein, folate, vitamin E, and fiber for optimal neuron function and brain cell health. Greens like spinach, chard, and kale support learning, recall, and information processing while helping prevent cognitive decline. 
  • Blueberries - These little powerhouse berries lead the list of antioxidant-rich fruits shown to improve communication between brain cells, boost focus, enhance learning and memory, and protect the brain from aging. The flavonoids in blueberries neutralize free radicals, improve signaling, and even stimulate new brain cell production! 
  • Nuts and seeds - Especially walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds - packed with brain-healthy vitamin E, folate, zinc, and polyphenols. Nuts and seeds enhance blood flow, neurotransmitter function, signaling, and plasticity between neural connections to sharpen thinking skills. Their combo of healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants wards off inflammation and oxidative stress that impair cognition. 
  • Fatty fish - Salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines supply anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA essential for brain cell health and optimal neuron signaling. Getting these “good fats” from fish 2-3 times per week protects against age-related decline, enhances blood flow, and lowers the risk of brain lesions associated with impaired cognition. 
  • Cocoa/dark chocolate - Increases blood flow to key areas of the brain associated with attention, verbal memory, and problem-solving. Cocoa flavanols also improve neuron signaling while protecting brain cells against oxidative damage for better fluid cognition and lowered risk of neurodegenerative disease.
  • Extra virgin olive oil - Full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant polyphenols that improve blood vessel health, enhance working memory and protect aging brains against oxidative damage that impairs cognition. 

Reap maximum benefits by eating foods high in compounds that work synergistically like polyphenols + Omega-3s from fish + leafy greens + nuts. Aim for a mix of colors on your plate and spice things up with anti-inflammatory turmeric, cocoa, green tea, and cinnamon. 

A healthy dietary pattern that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats is important for brain health.

Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness means purposefully paying attention to the present moment without getting caught up in judgments or reactions. Doing regular mindfulness training strengthens neural connections and gray matter volume in areas of the brain related to focus, sensory processing, empathy, and stress[12]

Aim to incorporate mindfulness practices a few times throughout your day. Here’s how[12]

  • Tune into sensory details or name 3 things you see, hear, and feel anytime you're waiting in line, sitting in traffic, washing dishes, etc. Notice colors, textures, sounds, temperature and connect with your senses. 
  • When conversing with someone, deliberately pay full attention. Listen and observe intently instead of just planning what you’ll say next. 
  • During routine activities like brushing your teeth or walking the dog, fully focus on the physical sensations involved rather than letting your mind wander. 
  • Take a few mindful bites or sips when you eat or drink - without TV, phones, or other distractions. Pay attention to flavors, textures, aromas, and how the food or drink makes you feel. 
  • Take a “brain break” a few times during your workday to just follow your breath for a minute or two. 

Mindfulness Practice Leads To Increases In Regional Brain Gray Matter Density 

Here are some key facts, stats, and a summary from the following study[12]: Facts: 

  • The study investigated gray matter changes after an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course compared to a control group. 
  • 16 healthy and meditation-naïve participants completed the MBSR course while 17 were in the control group. 
  • Brain MRI scans were conducted before and after the intervention for both groups. 
  • Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to analyze gray matter changes.


  • MBSR participants reported practicing mindfulness exercises an average of 22.6 hours total over the 8 weeks (average 27 minutes per day). 
  • Significant increases were seen in 3 mindfulness subscales (acting with awareness, observing, and non-judging) for the MBSR group only. 
  • ROI analysis found increased gray matter in the left hippocampus for the MBSR group only. 
  • Whole-brain analysis identified increased gray matter in the posterior cingulate cortex, left temporoparietal junction, and cerebellum for the MBSR group only. 


  • This longitudinal study examined structural brain changes associated with MBSR participation using MRI and VBM. 
  • After controlling for a waitlist control group, the MBSR group showed significantly increased gray matter concentration in regions involved in learning/memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. 
  • Specifically, confirmatory ROI analysis found increases in the left hippocampus, while exploratory whole-brain analysis identified additional increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, left temporoparietal junction, and cerebellum. 
  • The results provide evidence that participation in an MBSR program is associated with measurable changes in brain structure in regions important for cognitive and emotional processing. This suggests mindfulness meditation can induce plasticity in the adult brain. 

By repeatedly guiding your attention with curiosity versus judgment in your daily life you strengthen your concentration, emotional regulation, creativity and cognitive skills. Regular mindfulness trains your brain to stay more present and focused with less mind wandering. 

Prioritize Social Connections 

Having meaningful social connections and avoiding chronic loneliness are both linked to better cognition as we age[13]. Face-to-face social interaction helps strengthen neural pathways that bolster the brain’s ability to regulate emotions, think flexibly, recall information quickly, and protect against cognitive decline. 

Aim for at least 15-20 minutes of meaningful social time daily through[13]

  • Engaging in conversation with friends or family, especially in person 
  • Sharing meals and activities with loved ones 
  • Getting involved with a club, volunteer group, or community organization 
  • Scheduling video calls versus just emails/texts

Associations Between Social Connections And Cognition: A Global Collaborative Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis 

Here are some key facts, statistics and a summary from the data meta analysis[13]

  • The study included 38,614 participants from 13 longitudinal cohort studies in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Follow-up periods ranged from 2-15 years. 
  • Being married or in a relationship was associated with a slower annual decline in global cognition compared to being single or never married (b=0.010, 95% CI 0.000–0.019). 
  • Living with others was associated with a slower annual decline in global cognition (b=0.007, 0.002–0.012), memory (b=0.017, 0.006–0.028), and language (b=0.008, 0.000–0.015) compared to living alone. 
  • Weekly interactions with family/friends (b=0.016, 0.006–0.026) and weekly community group engagement (b=0.030, 0.007–0.052) predicted slower annual memory decline than no interactions/engagement. 
  • Never feeling lonely predicted a slower annual decline in global cognition (b=0.047, 95% CI 0.018–0.075) and executive function (b=0.047, 0.017–0.077) compared to often feeling lonely. 
  • Degree of social support, having a confidante, and relationship satisfaction did not predict cognitive decline. 
  • Heterogeneity between studies was low (I2=0.00-15.11%) for the most significant findings. 

In summary, the study found that good social connections related to relationship status, living situation, social interactions and loneliness were associated with slower rates of annual cognitive decline, especially in global cognition, memory and language. This supports the hypothesis that social structure, interactions and quality impact cognition, particularly memory domains. The findings were largely consistent across the international cohort studies. 

Investing in positive relationships that stimulate you intellectually, emotionally, and behaviorally brings significant brain connectivity and performance advantages. Schedule regular social outings, game nights, shared hobbies, and ‘no shop talk’ meals with those closest to you. Protecting your brain health involves both stimulating your mind and feeding your social-emotional needs. 

The Takeaway 

You have an incredible capacity to enhance and preserve brain power at any age through how you live day-to-day. Now that you know some of the most effective ways to boost your brain health and performance, you can start incorporating more of these activities into your regular routine.

Consistency is key – make at least a few of these things daily habits and build from there. Feed both your mind and your emotional well-being. Stay mentally and socially active in addition to keeping physically fit and eating nourishing whole foods. Invest in quality sleep and find ways to manage stress. 

Small, simple lifestyle tweaks add up to better mental sharpness and cognitive resilience. YOUR remarkable brain will thank you! 


[1] Ferrer-Uris, Blai et al. “Can exercise shape your brain? A review of aerobic exercise effects on cognitive function and neuro-physiological underpinning mechanisms.” AIMS neuroscience vol. 9,2 150-174. 2 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3934/Neuroscience.2022009 

[2] Hampshire, Adam et al. “A Large-Scale, Cross-Sectional Investigation Into the Efficacy of Brain Training.” Frontiers in human neuroscience vol. 13 221. 9 Jul. 2019, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00221 

[3] Al-Thaqib, Abdulrahman et al. “Brain Training Games Enhance Cognitive Function in Healthy Subjects.” Medical science monitor basic research vol. 24 63-69. 20 Apr. 2018, doi:10.12659/msmbr.909022 

[4] Green, C S, and D Bavelier. “Exercising your brain: a review of human brain plasticity and training-induced learning.” Psychology and aging vol. 23,4 (2008): 692-701. doi:10.1037/a0014345 

[5] Sterling, Christa. “What Happens to Your Brain When You Learn a New Skill? - CCSU.” CCSU, 25 July 2017,

[6] Innes, Kim E et al. “Meditation and Music Improve Memory and Cognitive Function in Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD vol. 56,3 (2017): 899-916. doi:10.3233/JAD-160867 

[7] Eugene, Andy R, and Jolanta Masiak. “The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep.” MEDtube science vol. 3,1 (2015): 35-40. 

[8] Tai, Xin You et al. “Impact of sleep duration on executive function and brain structure.” Communications biology vol. 5,1 201. 3 Mar. 2022, doi:10.1038/s42003-022-03123-3 

[9] “Foods Linked to Better Brainpower - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 30 May 2017,

[10] Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience vol. 9,7 (2008): 568-78. doi:10.1038/nrn2421

[11] Dr. Uma Naidoo. “A Harvard Nutritionist Shares the 6 Best Brain Foods: ‘Most People Aren’t Eating Enough Of’ These.” CNBC, CNBC, 12 Mar. 2022,

[12] Hölzel, Britta K et al. “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Psychiatry research vol. 191,1 (2011): 36-43. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006 

[13] Samtani, Suraj et al. “Associations between social connections and cognition: a global collaborative individual participant data meta-analysis.” The lancet. Healthy longevity vol. 3,11 (2022): e740-e753. doi:10.1016/S2666-7568(22)00199-4

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