Give your brain a proper workout.

Puzzle-solving has already been a terrific distraction, a solid way of challenging yourself, and an optimal timekiller, especially now that smartphones and tablets have made puzzle games more portable than ever. (Including our own just-announced Classic Word Search iBook!)

But puzzles can do more for you than just entertain and pass the time. More and more scientific studies are coming out every year that confirm just how important keeping the mind active and engaged can be for our long-term health.

Numerous studies state that cognitive function, memory recall, and general mental acuity can all be sustained (or even improved) by regular doses of puzzly goodness.

It’s with that in mind that the AARP has launched Brain Fitness, an online program targeted specifically for retirees, ambitiously offering to improve “Attention, Brain Speed, Memory, People Skills, and Intelligence.”

I played the free trials offered by Brain Fitness to explore them from a more puzzle-centric perspective. (More exercises are available with a subscription fee.)

The features available without a subscription include tests of your reaction time to visual stimuli, assessments of observational skill, and visual acuity, as I tracked multiple moving objects on a screen, reporting visual patterns with clicks of my mouse, and scanned for inconsistencies (essentially playing “Which of these things is not like the others?”).

While these are more mental exercises than puzzle games, they’re certainly challenging, and I found myself looking not only to test myself, but to better my performance in subsequent rounds.

It’s essentially a gym for your mind, offering different tasks to keep various skills sharp. It’s a valuable service, to be sure.

And I’m proud to say that a lot of those same mental challenges and exercises are fundamental parts of PuzzleNation‘s roster of puzzle games.

Diggin’ Words and StarSpell not only challenge reaction time and visual acuity, but focus as well, as you avoid distractions (the dogs and the spinning space station, respectively) while anagramming and manipulating the letters on the screen.

Tanglewords and Invisible Word Search encourage deductive reasoning and observational organization as you whittle down false paths and red herrings en route to completing each grid.

As a puzzler, I’m proud to count PuzzleNation as part of a growing network of resources for those who want to keep their wits sharp and their minds keen.

[Please note that I am making no promises about potential health benefits of our puzzles; I’m simply reporting on the results of certain studies regarding puzzles and brain health. The jury is definitely still out on this subject.]

For the latest updates on PuzzleNation news, you can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And for news from all corners of the puzzle community, keep visiting our blog!

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