“Crossword puzzles help human brain function.” Many people believe this statement, but can’t support it with research and trusted sources; that is, until now! The health benefits of crossword puzzles are not limited to cognitive function, though. Here are the five primary yet surprising health benefits of crossword puzzles.
#1 Crosswords delay memory loss and help alleviate dementia.
When most people ask if crosswords are good for brain health, they’re most likely wondering if crosswords help strengthen memory. As this study found, solving crossword puzzles later in life delayed memory decline by 2.5 years in those who had developed dementia. Previous education of the participants was not a factor in the results.
In similar studies, researchers found that these benefits help those who are already at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia the most. In other words, if you’re at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may benefit from regularly enjoying crossword puzzles.
#2 Crosswords preserve memory, cognitive function, and overall brain strength.
In another study, researchers found that those who regularly do crosswords have the brain strength of someone 10 years younger than themselves. Scientists and researchers have also found that solvers will get the most cognitive benefits of crossword puzzles by consistently challenging themselves. You can challenge yourself even more with crosswords by:
- Increasing the size and/or difficulty of the puzzle regularly.
- Timing yourself as you solve the crossword.
- Using fewer materials to help you solve.
- Solving foreign language crosswords.
#3 You can strengthen your vocabulary and spelling through crosswords.
Crosswords strengthen the vocabulary and spelling of students and adults alike. A larger vocabulary, in turn, can increase your processing speed and your abstract thinking. This kind of mental boost can lead to greater professional success, as well.
And crosswords don’t strengthen vocabulary and spelling alone. Solving crosswords can also boost your knowledge of trivia, which has similar cognitive benefits.
#4 Solving crosswords as a group strengthens social bonds.
By solving crosswords with friends and family, you’ll strengthen your social bonds through fun and conversation. Social connections help you live longer and improve your quality of life. More importantly, a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than issues such as obesity and smoking. In other words, inviting your friends over for a crossword-solving party could have just as much of an impact on your health as exercise.
#5 Crosswords alleviate anxiety, which will improve your mood.
There are still ways to achieve emotional health benefits from crosswords as a solo solver. For example, more intellectually stimulating exercises might improve anxiety. A study found that people with anxiety were more successful at tasks requiring concentration – such as crosswords – than activities most people consider more “relaxing.” This finding relates to the idea that stress beats anxiety by redirecting nervous energy to a task that requires problem-solving.
Not all scientists agree on the extent of the health benefits crosswords provide. The research, however, provides plenty of evidence to say that crosswords support human health and brain function to a degree. Plus, even if an apple a day doesn’t necessarily keep the doctor away every day, it also doesn’t hurt. So why not try a crossword a day? Or, even better, make crosswords to amplify these health benefits of crossword puzzles.
Kristen Seikaly used her artistic background, research skills, and love for the internet to launch her first blog, Operaversity. Now she uses the skills to connect teachers, parents, and game enthusiasts with Crossword Hobbyist and My Word Search. She studied music at the University of Michigan, and now lives in Philadelphia.