They’re fun, but do they work?
Several years ago, during the time my oldest daughter, Silvia, was engaged to a Dutch chemist, I decided to subscribe to a Dutch language program. It wasn’t expensive and was easy to use on my iPad. There are many language programs such as Rosetta Stone and Babbel that can teach you basic language skills quickly. Some even “listen” to your pronunciation and help you to get it right. So I learned some Dutch basics, which turned out to be useful at their multilingual wedding.
At that time Rosetta Stone offered an interesting addition: “Fit Brains,” and I decided to give it a try. I enjoyed sampling a plethora of games targeting different areas, such as logic, focus, words, visual, speed, and memory. They were fun, entertaining and motivated me to get better and better. Sadly this product was discontinued in 2018, but there are many similar ones, such as Lumosity and Elevate. Most of these apps offer a trial version or period during which you can see if you really like it. The yearly cost for most of these apps is around $50. But be aware that apps will often lock you into automatic renewals, unless you turn its renewal off. Simply uninstalling the app will not stop them from charging you.
I tried Lumosity and liked the games a lot, especially the “train of thought” game. This involved switching railroad tracks to get a certain colored train into its barn. What I consider a bit stressful is that the games usually give you a time limit to fulfill the task. To reach the “million points high score” you need to get better, stronger, and faster.
After my subscription expired for Lumosity, I tried Elevate, which offers different categories and a less competitive learning approach. Since English is not my native language, it’s always good to learn something new through the reading, spelling correction, and grammar games. What I like so far with Elevate is that it sometimes gives me explanations of what I did wrong.
Learning games are definitely juggling my brain cells a bit, and it’s a fun alternative to playing games like Scrabble. By the way, you can scrabble on your mobile devices, too, nowadays. For some time I have been scrabbling regularly from Warrenton with my 85-year-old mother who lives alone in Munich, Germany. It helps her stay connected and provides needed mental stimulation.
But it’s important to understand that the long term memory or brain health benefits of those brain teasing games have not been proven scientifically. Recently, I read on the internet that, “Physical exercise helps your brain stay sharp. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also enhances the effects of helpful brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones.” Others say, “Exercise, drink coffee, get some sunlight, build strong connections, meditate, sleep well, eat well, and play tetris.”
Notice no one’s said anything about the benefits of mental fitness apps.
To get myself physically and mentally into better physical and mental shape before the wedding of our second daughter, Melanie, this August, I am planning to exercise more, get more outside, sleep, and eat better. And, even though I’m not sure how much it helps, it won’t hurt to continue teasing my brain with enjoyable learning games and memory apps.
If you have questions or want to share your experience with brain training games with me, please contact me at Klaus@DokKlaus.com.