London: Playing Sudoku and crosswords may not offset age-related mental decline, but can boost mental ability over a lifetime, a study claims.
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen in the UK found that regularly doing problem solving throughout your lifetime does not prevent mental decline in later life.
The study, published in The BMJ, suggests that regularly engaging in intellectual activities boosts mental ability throughout life and provides a "higher cognitive point" from which to decline.
Previous studies have suggested that mental ability can be maintained or improved by exercising the mind in brain teasers such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
They also suggest that reading from an early age, playing board games and playing musical instruments at least twice a week is linked with significantly reducing the risk for dementia, researchers said.
However, there is a lack of historical childhood mental ability data, and the effect of practice on improving test scores has often been overlooked in mental ageing studies, they said.
The study involved 498 participants who were all born in 1936 and had all taken part in a group intelligence test at the age of 11.
They were around 64 years old at the start of the study.
The researchers found that engaging in intellectually stimulating activities on a regular basis was linked to the level of mental ability in old age, having the largest association with improving cognitive performance during the course of life.
However, such activities had no effect on the rate of mental decline associated with ageing.
While those who regularly engage in problem solving could potentially enhance their mental ability, this does not "protect an individual from decline but imparts a higher starting point from which decline is observed," researchers said.