Bobby Fischer’s rise to fame in the 1950s and 60s has made the classic game of chess an intellectual pastime for all ages. The version of playing chess has become increasingly popular over the years, especially now that many people are spending more time at home due to the pandemic.
But beyond its boardgame appeal, research has shown that playing chess can offer long-term benefits to brain function and cognitive development. Though it doesn’t automatically have physical advantages like other forms of exercise, actively engaging your mental muscles on the chessboard is sure to give your cognitive skills a boost! Let’s take a closer look at how playing chess can be beneficial for overall brain health.
It Enhances Your Skills In Problem-Solving
Playing chess requires more than skillful moves of pieces around a game board; players must have quick thinking and problem-solving abilities. In 1992, a study conducted to measure the effects on chess lessons on schoolchildren showed potentially remarkable results. 450 pupils were divided into three groups: those who were given standard curriculum without chess instruction, those that had chess lessons after finishing first grade, and those who began taking chess lessons right off the bat.
The findings of the research showcased that students who learned how to play or studied strategical thinking through chess performed considerably better in academic exams compared to their peers. Evidently, this study proves that playing chess may benefit one’s ability to think creatively and respond quickly to ever-changing parameters – likewise in life.
It Hones Your Concentration
Playing chess can be a deeply rewarding and intense experience; it demands focus, as even the slightest lapse in concentration can have devastating consequences. This dedicated and engaged attention to the game has a twofold benefit: firstly, is provides an excellent exercise for those who play, sharpening their capacity to focus and strengthening their cognitive abilities; secondly, those same qualities are then transferable to other aspects of life.
In fact, numerous studies conducted across the globe from the U.S., to China and Russia have demonstrated that playing chess motivates young people by challenging them in interesting ways, providing more varied opportunities for learning than ever existed before.
It Helps Prevent You From Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
Chess is an activity that, surprisingly, is known to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This is in part due to the amount of memorization and strategizing necessary to play the game successfully. As with physical activities that require muscle training, research has shown that mental activities such as chess can lead to a decrease in dementia cases in adults 75 and older.
Specifically, The New England Journal of Medicine found these results when publishing its findings on Dr. Robert Friedland’s study; he showed that using the parts of the brain which are otherwise under-stimulated can lead to an overall improvement in cognitive functioning. Playing chess regularly aids this by providing an environment which encourages mental sharpness and strategic thinking, since it is known as a particularly challenging game for even experienced players. Overall, this could be a great tool for anyone wishing to maintain memory health and remain sharp into their later years.
It Stimulates Dendrite Growth
Neurons in our brains can receive information from other cells with the help of dendrites, which are like tree branches with tiny antennas at the end. These antennas help neurons to take up messages and signals from other neurons, allowing us to process incoming data quickly and make decisions based on that.
Interestingly enough, when we learn a new skill such as playing chess, more and larger antenna-like dendrites are created in the brain! This allows us to gradually progress beyond mastery level with quicker recognition of patterns and further learning opportunities. All this demonstrates how much our brains can change when stimulated by something as enjoyable as a game of chess.
It Brings Out Your Creativity
It’s not surprising that chess is an effective way to flex mental muscles. In fact, according to a four-year study, students who played chess once each week for 32 weeks out performed the class in creative thinking.
Not only did the chess players earn the highest originality ratings of any group, but the right hemisphere of the brain was stimulated during play, a part of the brain associated with creativity and fresh ideas. Learning how to play chess can help you tap into your inspired side while having lots of fun. So find a board and start getting strategic—your mind will thank you!