Studies suggest Wordle, word games benefit your brain

Challenging games, activities can boost brain health

Wordle is only the latest brain game to gain such popularity -- remember Sudoku or the craze over crossword puzzles? But studies do suggest that Wordle isn't just fun, it can actually benefit your brain, too.

Even if you don’t play Wordle, chances are that you’ve heard of it. The trending word game has become a fan favorite, helping people -- even us in the newsroom -- to start their mornings with a little brain teaser.

Wordle is only the latest brain game to gain so much popularity. (Remember Sudoku or the craze over crossword puzzles?) But studies suggest that Wordle isn’t just a fun challenge, it can actually benefit your brain, too.

“My idea about those types of word games is if you enjoy them and they’re giving you a challenge, so you can’t (just) do it on autopilot (and) you really need to think about it, then it’s really serving you a good purpose in terms of supporting your brain health for life,” said Dr. Jessica Caldwell, a neuropsychologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

According to Dr. Caldwell, there is no minimum time that you need to spend solving word puzzles each day -- what matters more is that you’re playing them on a regular basis. Those games also need to provide a challenge, so if a particular game becomes too easy, experts say you need to switch it up.

“In order to keep your memory and your thinking sharp, the key is really challenge and learning,” Caldwell said. “Those are the only ways that you’re really actually exercising your brain, you’re growing new neural pathways, you’re supporting the old neural pathways, so the key is you can’t just be ‘busy.’”

Related: Tired of Wordle? Try one of these knock-off games that are pretty fun, too

But what if you just don’t enjoy Wordle?

Dr. Caldwell says that there are plenty of other options for you. Any type of activity that challenges your thinking will do just fine.

For example, experts say you could read a book or watch a documentary, and then have an in-depth conversation about it with a friend.

And it’s not just mental gymnastics that matter: Exercise can help improve your brain health by increasing blood flow. One of the best exercises for your brain is dancing, because it literally requires you to think on your feet.

If you are into word games, to boost the benefit of those games, you can take each puzzle a step further. For example, if you don’t know the meaning of the Wordle answer one day, look it up and try to use that word throughout the day.

Or, if the answer is something simple like “snail,” challenge yourself to try and draw a snail, or learn how to say “snail” in other languages. It’s all about creating new neural pathways in your brain, and making connections with the old ones.

The most connections you make, the bigger the boost.

Related: Ann Arbor named third best Wordle city in United States

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.