Keeping your brain healthy and functioning at its best is an important part of health and wellbeing at any age. Seeking opportunities to sharpen your mind will naturally improve your mental wellbeing. Harvard Medical School Healthline shares, “Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.” One of the best activities to keep your mind sharp is playing strategy games. Here are some of our favorites.

Chess

Long hailed for its brain boosting powers and strategic elements, chess is the perfect game to play to keep your mind sharp. “Playing chess actively engages the brain and has been shown to strengthen logical reasoning and problem solving amongst the elderly,” reports Emily Sholtis and Anna Nicotera from Basis Policy Research. “Chess stimulates the brain strengthening mental capacity and information retention. Additional research has linked chess to lower rates of dementia in active players. Of all current chess grandmasters, none show signs of dementia.”

You can find local chess clubs at USChess.org. If you don’t have a partner or you want to dabble in chess on your own, check out the Internet Chess Club. It’s one of the largest chess sites and even offers paid instruction. Tournaments are usually live-streamed for everyone to watch.

Card Games

Whether it’s bridge, rummy, or Texas Hold’em, card games provide an opportunity for socializing with others, having fun and refining those all-important strategy skills. Vineyard Bluffton is a memory care and assisted living community that believes in the power of card games to boost mental agility. So much so, they ensure card games are integrated into their resident lifestyle programs several times per week.

Bridge is just one of the many popular game for players of all ages, but is often enjoyed by older adults. A majority of the 25 million bridge players around the world are over the age of 50, according to a study by AARP. Bridge uses cognitive skills, including memorization, deductive reasoning and problem-solving. In addition to the mental benefits, it provides opportunities for socialization. You can find local bridge groups through the American Local Bridge Club. If you want to play online with others or learn how to play bridge check out Bridge Base. This site has numerous resources for new and experienced players.

Poker can offer the same benefits by challenging players to strategize moves as well as trying to read and analyze the other players’ moves. Texas Hold’em is one of the most popular poker games, both in local tournaments and online. If you’re new to poker, you can learn online through an online poker school. Online poker schools also give you a way to practice your skills in between in-person games and tournaments.

Brain Games and Puzzles

Sudoku and crossword puzzles are two of the most popular brain games. The concentration required for both games can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. They can also boosts memory. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends both types of puzzles for brain exercise and agrees that these type of mentally challenging activities could have both short-term and long-term benefits for your brain health.

Online games are also available on a computer or smartphone. Popular brain boosting apps include Luminosity and Cognifit. The AARP even has its own website dedicated to brain boosting games and activities called Staying Sharp.

If you’re skeptical about the use of apps or “brain trainers”, NIH National Institute on Aging has recently conducted a study on formal cognitive training, titled Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial. They found it does improve mental skills both short-term and long-term. And video games may offer the same benefit. A 2013 study by UC San Francisco concurs with these findings, noting that video games may offset or reverse negative effects of aging by altering the brain’s plasticity.

Whether you want to play games alone or in the company of friends, it’s a great activity to boost your brain power and stay mentally sharp.