Expand the Fun: Board Games Do a Body, and Brain, Good

It’s the perfect week to break out the board games while families of all ages gather around for the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps that is why this holiday week just so happens to also be National Game and Puzzle Week.

Board games are not just fun for players 8 to 88, but good for them, too. Alex Yeager of Mayfair Games shared with How Life Unfolds that “a good board game gives players of any age ways to interact with each other and have an experience outside of their everyday world.” And he is not alone.

According to Health Fitness Revolution board games are not just a key to keeping your mind healthy and active, but “entertain and bring people together through competitive and cooperative game play.”

Elizabeth Brunscheen-Cartagena, family life and resource management agent with Kansas State Research and Extension, suggests that “board games can help family members connect and have fun together, all while helping kids build essential learning skills as they navigate the social component of game playing.” That means mastering face-to-face interaction, reading body language, verbal communication and social skills, like taking turns.

For the young, Schoolyard cites a Michigan State University study that suggests “kids who play games experience spikes in creative thinking and abilities. Not only is creativity fun, but it is a special life skill that can be useful in school and become essential in the workforce. Playing games with kids over holiday breaks may do more than help them behave for a few hours; it may also prepare them for a lifetime of success.”

For the young at heart, one of the primary benefits of playing board games is helping to reduce the risk for cognitive decline, by helping to improve short-term cognitive function through active brain stimulation. According to Health Fitness Revolution and Samir Becic, author of the book ReSYNC Your Life: 28 Days to a Stronger, Leaner, Smarter, Happier You, “Keeping your mind engaged means you are exercising it and building it stronger. A stronger brain has lower risks of losing its power.”

Becic, along with Health Fitness Revolution, compiled a list of 10 health benefits adults receive from playing games. Some include: helping to reduce stress, boosting your immune system, and, by “laughing and increasing your endorphins, they can help your blood pressure.”

We are talking about actual board games, not the online variety. In Psychology Today, Christopher Bergland writes of video games that, “In order to give your brain a full workout, you need to engage both hemispheres of the cerebrum and both hemispheres of the cerebellum. You can only do this by practicing, exploring, and learning new things in the three-dimensions of the real world—not while being sedentary in front of a flat screen in a cyber-reality.”

So, in addition to playing with family and friends during the holiday, plan a game night, or two and break out the boxes of board games. Chances are no matter what your age, you’ll be healthier, happier and wiser for it.