Key Exercises for Cognitive Stimulation

August 6, 2019
In this article, discover some basic exercises for cognitive stimulation.

The things we’ve learned in recent years about our brain is very valuable. For starters, we know that it’s elastic and that we can change its structure. We also know that it has cognitive reserves that play a very important role when faced with the threat of neurodegenerative illnesses. For that reason, today we want to highlight some key exercises for cognitive stimulation.

To do this, we’ll begin by explaining the difference between stimulation, rehabilitation, and cognitive training.

The different types of cognitive therapy

  • Within the area of cognitive rehabilitation, we can include activities aimed at restoring damaged cognitive functions. This damage can be due to different causes: trauma, mild cognitive impairment, or even depression.
  • Cognitive stimulation include activities which are carried out in order to delay cognitive impairment.
  • Thirdly, cognitive training is a set of activities aimed at optimizing or maintaining cognitive performance. It’s a good way of preventing future cognitive deterioration and improving cognitive reserve.

These three ways of working on our cognitive functions are a type of non-pharmacological intervention. It has been shown that, with the application of these strategies, the person may be able to improve their capabilities or, at the very least, put the brakes on their deterioration.

According to Jara (2007), elderly people with cognitive impairment can benefit from these strategies which may improve their quality of life.

An elderly man smiling.

Cognitive stimulation

Today, however, we’ll be focusing on cognitive stimulation. According to Villalba and Espert (2014), this treatment has many advantages. They stress that it doesn’t produce side effects nor does it involve medication of any sort.

In addition, it creates a personal contact with the therapist and with other people, and this produces positive results in the patient’s behavior and improves their cognitive skills.

It’s also a type of activity that helps exercise established skills, and that teaches the patient how they can best use the resources they have.

Finally, it’s important to mention that cognitive stimulation may be considerably cheaper than other treatments.

We’re now going to talk about some simple exercises that can be done at home. They have been shown to produce very positive results.

Key exercises for cognitive stimulation

There are many cognitive stimulation exercises. They range from classic activities to help us improve attention and memory, right through to brain training using new technologies.

Key exercises for memory-related cognitive stimulation

  • Images and photographs. These elements allow us to work on short-term memory. First, we have to observe the image carefully, and then, after a few minutes, try to remember details about the photo.
  • Another traditional game, such as matching cards after laying them face down, can help us work on our memory.
  • Finally, we can improve our memory by using lists of words read by someone else. There are many ready-made lists online, but we can make our own if we prefer.
A lady needing cognitive stimulation.

Attention span activities

To work on our attention span at home, we can read different types of texts out loud. You can either read these texts yourself or someone else can. Once you read them, ask questions about specific information in order to exercise your attention span.

We can also work with images, just like we did with the memory activities. This time, however, we’ll focus on more specific details.

Activities to improve our ability in calculations

We can work on this skill in many different ways. One of these is to try to put a list of previously given numbers in order from highest to lowest or vice versa.

On the other hand, you can do some mental calculations. You should start with simpler operations and gradually increase the level.

Another test is to start with a high number and then keep subtracting a specific number. For example, start with the number 27, and then ask the person to keep subtracting 3 from it.

Awareness and orientation activities

With awareness or orientation, you should work on 3 different areas: time, space, and the person’s social circle. To improve general awareness – something that always concerns us when a person begins to show signs of cognitive impairment – we can work with daily questions such as:

  • What day of the week, month, and year it is.
  • What the current season is.
  • The different times of the day and the activities we carry out at those times (we eat breakfast in the mornings, for example).
  • Their date of birth and age.
  • The place they live in (city, town, street).
  • Their name and family members’ names.

Relate it to the person’s daily life

This will all be far more effective the more related it is to the person’s daily life. It’s one thing to make lists of kings and other things, but far better to practice with shopping lists, for example. There are many key exercises for cognitive stimulation that we can carry out with ordinary day-to-day things.

There are, of course, experts available to help us. We can read every book or article there is, or look into all the experiments that have been carried out, but, ultimately, they’re better equipped to help us out.

They’ll recommend how we can carry out the activities and set goals. They’ll help us choose the tools or objects that will be most useful to us in our particular situation. In addition to that, they’ll also help to motivate us to continue, and sometimes we’ll only start to see results after months or even years.

  • Madrigal, L. M. J. (2007). La estimulación cognitiva en personas adultas mayores. Revista cúpula, 4-14.
  • Tortajada, R. E., & Villalba, S. (2014). Estimulación cognitiva: una revisión neuropsicológica. Therapeía: estudios y propuestas en ciencias de la salud, (6), 73-94.
  • Valls-Predet, C., Molinuevo, J L. y Rami, L. (2010). Diagnóstico precoz de la enfermedad de Alzheimer: fase prodrómica y preclínica. Revista Neurol 51, 471-80.