Puzzle me this: Do word games help with brain health?

We spoke to the experts at Cleveland Clinic to find out how to get the most out of these brain exercises.

It seems like word games have grown in popularity over the years. They’re a fun and easy way to stay entertained. But, did you know they can also help keep your brain healthy?

“My idea about those types of word games is if you enjoy them and they’re giving you a challenge, so you can’t do it on auto pilot, you really need to think about it, then it’s really serving you a good purpose in terms of supporting your brain health for life,” said Dr. Jessica Caldwell, neuropsychologist for Cleveland Clinic.

Caldwell said there is no minimum or maximum time you should be playing those kinds of word games, what matters more is playing them on a regular basis.

If you’re not into word games, there are plenty of other options out there that can give you the same kind of health benefits.

For example, you could do a tough crossword puzzle or play another kind of puzzle game. You could even watch a documentary or read a book and then have an in-depth conversation about it with a friend.

Caldwell said anything that gives you a learning experience or cognitive challenge is what’s most important.

“In order to keep your memory and your thinking sharp, the key is really challenge and learning. Those are the only ways that you’re really actually exercising your brain, you’re growing new neural pathways, you’re supporting the old neural pathways, so the key is you can’t just be busy,” she said.

Caldwell said if you feel like you’re not great at word games, don’t be too hard on yourself. It could be worth trying something else that is more enjoyable for you.