Playing that daily round of Wordle or doing the daily crossword isn’t just a fun way to start your morning, it can also have long-term positive effects on your brain health, experts say.
Experts say older adults who play word games daily can exercise their brains and potentially stave off cognitive decline and other problems that begin to occur with age.
One expert even told DailyMail.com that young people who play these games daily are now doing work that will help their brains all the way.
Although the mechanism cannot be determined by experts, they have long established the tendency to exercise the brain by giving it simple, solvable challenges, and keeping it healthy and active.
Dr Ronald Petersen (left), director of Alzheimer’s disease research at the Mayo Clinic, told DailyMail.com that playing daily word games is a positive lifestyle choice, similar to that of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Dr Jessica Caldwell (right), a neuropsychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said games can be a simple, ‘autopilot’ way to train the brain
‘My idea about these types of puns is that if you enjoy them and they challenge you, so you can’t do it on autopilot, you really have to think about it, then it really serves you a good goal in terms of supporting your brain health for life,” said Dr. Jessica Caldwell, neuropsychologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr Ronald Petersen, director of Alzheimer’s disease research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told DailyMail.com he recommends it for patients who have memory or thinking problems as they age.
The main advantage of games is that they are usually fun and a person can passively participate in them without even realizing it, which helps their brain in the long run.
Many people take real pleasure in playing word games, and the recent eruption of Wordle – which was developed by an indie game designed before being bought by The New York Times for a seven-figure price – shows that there is an appetite for these games in the average population.
Combine that with the real challenge these games present, as well as the potential learning of new words, phrases and ideas to keep the brain active.
“In order to keep your memory and your thinking sharp, the key really is challenge and learning,” Caldwell said.
“Those are the only ways to actually exercise your brain, you grow new neural pathways, you support old neural pathways, so the key is you can’t just be busy.”
Petersen explained that playing these types of games on a daily basis is a lifestyle factor that can affect a person’s health both immediately and in the long term, similar to regular cardio exercise and healthy eating can improve long-term health.
The emergence of Wordle in recent months shows that there is an apathy for fast and easy global games among the general population
He also described aging as something a person can turn into an “active” process – taking more initiative in how a person’s body ages – and less of a “passive” process – where a person just allows her body to slowly break down as she ages.
“Don’t just sit there and let things break down physically and mentally,” Petersen said.
Why exactly this is the case cannot be determined, although Petersen thinks it has to do with the “plasticity” of the brain.
Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain and its neural networks to grow and develop over time.
Petersen thinks working the brain regularly can activate neurons, increasing their plasticity, which may help stave off cognitive decline over time.
Although Petersen said this factor can apply to video games as well, simple word games often lack some of the downsides.
Playing a video game, such as the popular Minecraft and Call of Duty titles, can help activate neurons and even help a person train their visual and audio response to stimulus.
However, these games can be very addictive and cause other issues, like how exposed screen time can hurt a person’s eyes and damage their sleep cycle.