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Mind Games Aren't Just Fun, They're Also Good for You

Read this paragraph carefully and remember this: Pescara is a pass through the Apennines, the mountain range that extends the length of the Italian Peninsula.

You might call this trivia, or some sort of geography lesson. But in fact, it's an example of a new kind of exercise. Not for your muscles, but for that blob inside your skull. New federally-funded research shows that ten mental drills each day keep the brain fit today and help fend off forgetfulness in middle and old age.

The study, at the University of Florida, Penn State University, and other colleges, noted that Americans -- especially at this time when people resolve to lose weight in the New Year -- spend countless hours and billions and billions of dollars on health clubs, exercise equipment, and potions aimed at improving our physiques.

We spend virtually no concerted time or effort honing our intellectual fitness. Yet the study suggests that daily mental drills will have a lot more impact on our longevity and wellbeing than abdominal crunches and boring hours on the treadmill. The brainpower exercises we complete today can improve our mental agility as far as five years into the future. No workout at the gym can match that.

So let's see how you did on your first brain-strengthening exercise. What country, what mountain range, and -- even trickier -- what alpine pass did we mention just a minute or so ago? Don't remember, even though we specifically asked you to? How about this? Can you multiply the number 17 by two, three, four -- all the way to ten without pausing or writing anything down? No can do? Well, good friend, YOU are an excellent candidate for a daily regimen of mental jumping jacks.