When it comes to brain health, we’re all looking for ways to stay sharp. Do crossword puzzles train your brain the way dumbbells train your muscles? There is some research that says struggling to put the right letters in those little boxes can help protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s, improve your overall quality of thinking and memory, improve your vocabulary and reduce stress. 

Hint: Draw a blank (5 letters that starts with an F) 

In one study of elderly adults doing crossword puzzles helped to delay the onset of dementia by over 2 ½ years! Researchers speculate the protective powers of crossword puzzles is because they help users develop a “cognitive reserve” which serves to protect them from the impacts of dementia. Doing challenging puzzles has also been shown to slow the buildup of amyloid plaques—that cause Alzheimer’s symptoms—on the brain. Doing crossword puzzles may help keep up with your brain health, keeping it sharp and clean!

Answer: Forget 

Hint: To remember  (6 letter word for memory that ends with l)

Research shows doing crossword puzzles regularly can also improve your ability to focus attention on a desired task and improve your executive function and working memory. All of these skills improve one’s ability to successfully navigate the challenges of everyday life and remain independent for as long as possible. These various benefits can really accumulate and another large study found that regular puzzlers had cognitive function 10 years younger than their biological ages!

Answer: Recall

Hint: fun adventure (4 letters and starts with the letter “R.”)

Did you know that doing crossword puzzles may even make you more adventurous. Japanese adults who did weekly crossword and sudoku puzzles and were also given inductive reason training became more open to new experiences. Researchers speculate this effect is due to the participants’ increases in confidence and ability to meet challenges with their increased cognitive abilities. Aging related declines tend to shrink our worlds and limit our experiences, but doing crossword puzzles and other mental training may reverse this trend. 

Answer: Romp

Hint: To bounce back (10 letter word that starts with “r” and ends in “ce”)

Doing crossword puzzles have lots of benefits that are not directly related to cognition.  Doing them with others can also promote social bonding,  feelings of closeness and cooperative problem solving. And if you’ve ever been super frustrated trying to figure out a word, you know doing these often challenging puzzles can increase your emotional control and ability to tolerate stress, which is also a component of long-term physical and brain health. Crossword puzzles can also help reduce stress by increasing your feelings of competence and giving you something to focus on, other than your usual concerns.

Answer: Resilience . 

But how many crossword puzzles do you need to do? One study found that people who spent an hour a day on mentally challenging activities—like crosswords—maintained their cognitive integrity longer than people who only participated for 30 minutes daily or not at all.

What is your favorite mentally engaging hobby?