As our life expectancy continues to rise, so does our exposure to mental deterioration. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s affect more and more people and the medical community has lifestyle advice for us to reduce our chances of such maladies. As one would expect, physical exercise comes as an important recommendation as does eating certain foods which have been linked to other health improvements – like spinach, blueberries and nuts.
One other activity that is increasingly being proved to be helpful in the prevention of mental diseases is engaging in mentally challenging exercises. This makes sense when you view the brain as a muscle that gets stronger when used but atrophies with inactivity. There are many ways to improve cerebral fitness, and since people are spending more and more time on their smartphones, we thought we would suggest some ways to pump up your grey matter on the phone.
Here’s some interesting news; gamers have been found to be better at learning new tasks than non-gamers. Action video games get your synapses firing and improve mental reaction time, memory, spatial intelligence and an improved ability to learn new tasks. So don’t feel too bad about playing your favourite games on the morning commute. That said, not everyone likes to play those kinds of games – or at least not the small screen of a smartphone – so for those folks, here are some other options.
City Building Sims
You probably have at least one friend who was/still is hooked on playing Farmville on Facebook, which is just one of many city-builder games that cover a broad range of themes. There are agriculture centred games like Farmville and Gardenscapes which require you to plant, tend to and harvest a variety of crops and flowers. More commonly, the template for the city-builder is to start with a blank space of land and to gradually build it up to a functional virtual society.
You are basically in a godlike position to create a city with homes for citizens, a functioning economy, transportation systems, health and security, etc. The best of these would include Megapolis and Virtual City Playground. Other city-builders are set in a historical context and require the player to erect industries more suitable to the time (coal mines, blacksmiths, olive oil presses, etc) and sometimes even to build armies and strategize wars. Excellent examples of this genre would include Game of War: Fire Age and Knights and Dragons. Transport Tycoon is another option that tests the player’s abilities to make transportation infrastructure like railways, tunnels, bridges and airports for their city.
Another excellent option in the city-building genre is The Simpsons: Tapped Out, where the aim is to recreate the city of Springfield and interact with all the inhabitants. As expected, the creativity level is extremely high and also provides humourous interactions with all your favourite characters. City-builders offer players challenges in memory, multi-tasking and planning and give a great sense of pride when done well.
These are excellent for your daily mental workout and come in wide variety of options. For general trivia, it’s tough to do better than Trivia Crack. It has six categories and allows head-to-head play in a format reminiscent of Trivial Pursuit. You can also collect coins, hearts and diamonds to purchase additional features. Also in the realm of general trivia is Quiz Up which has questions from a larger range of narrower categories. Quizoid and Feetwit are two others worth a look as is the app for the iconic TV trivia game show Jeopardy. Unlike the show, answers are selected in a multiple choice format, and the app is offered in a sport-specific version as well.
Psych is a trivia game with a twist. Similar to Balderdash, players come up with plausible incorrect answers to mislead their opponents. There are music-themed trivia games out the as well such as SongPop, Guess the Song and Rock On. In these games, obviously, players compete to name songs and artists across a wide range of musical genres. Guess the Song even has a feature that allows head-to-head games on the same phone so you can play against a friend.
For those who might disdain games that may have obscure or difficult categories (history, science, arts and literature are the usual suspects here) there is another specific themed game called Pixduel. This game is targeted at Millennials and challenges their knowledge of pop culture.
Back to general trivia, there is also an app version of the addictive website Sporcle. For those who aren’t familiar with the site, you don’t play head-to-head on it like most of the other mentioned games. In Sporcle, you can find trivia questions on almost any subject, sometimes extremely specific to challenge and expand your knowledge specifically tailored to your desire. In general trivia, it’s tough to do better than Trivia Crack. It has six categories and allows head-to-head play in a format reminiscent of Trivial Pursuit. You can also collect coins, hearts and diamonds to purchase additional features. Also in the realm of general trivia is Quiz Up which has questions from a larger range of more specific categories.
It’s not just action games or city builders or trivia games that help boost your smarts; it’s also possible that casino games, especially those with a cerebral component, can help improve your analytical and predictive powers. Online casino review websites list sign-up bonuses available on online casinos such as Betfred and explain the options and gameplay at top sites, many of which have a skill element or require mental acuity – such as poker, baccarat, blackjack and bingo.
There is also the Spot the Difference genre – This is a classic. A split screen is given with two very similar pictures. They could be pictures of a dog, a skyline, a famous painting, anything. Your observational skills are put to the test to find the differences between the two. Spot the difference can be played at all skill levels and with or without a clock. If you’re interested, you can look at apps such as Find Differences 5 and Spot the Diff or Star Spot which uses photos of the most famous celebrities.
Hidden Object Games
Another test of observational powers is the genre that involves hidden object puzzles. With these, the player is shown an image with numerous objects and is required to scour the picture to find specific objects. Just as with spot the difference games, hidden object games are available in all skill levels, and different apps will have different features like time allowances, hints, etc. There are many on offer, but two of the top apps in this category are Criminal Case, in which you find clues to solve crimes and The Secret Society which has added puzzles and mini-games as well as an overarching mystery to be solved.
These are simply modern-day versions of some of the most famous brain puzzles. Sudoku is a great option and should not only be played by those who have an aptitude for numbers. People who are arithmetically challenged would be well served by playing this Japanese number-cruncher at easier levels. Andoku Sudoku and Sudoku Free (AI Factory Limited) are two great options that offer all difficulty levels and great optional features Sudoku (SwanApps) which allows users to write numbers easily with their fingers. Scrabble is a classic board game you can play against 1-3 opponents and build your vocabulary.
The ancient Chinese tile game Mahjong also has a variety of apps offering different varieties of play; check out Mahjong!!, Mahjong Worlds or Amazing Mahjong: Zen. And of course, you can use all the knowledge acquired from your trivia games to tackle the humble crossword. The world famous NYTimes Crossword is one of many apps on offer and Puzzazz Crossword, Cryptic, Logic & Other Puzzles, as the name suggests, provides many variations of crosswords and games like word finds.
Just like with physical activities like yoga, jogging, sport or weights, we all have our preference for our favourite modes of mental exercise. The important thing is to do it every day!