Play a musical instrument? Take hikes on the weekend? Do the morning crossword puzzle? As odd as it might sound, any of these things might make you a better, safer driver.
It found that simply getting a daily mental workout will help significantly reduce the chances of being in an accident.
For a more structured brain-fitness program, the insurer The Hartford also recommends DriveSharp computer software, from Posit Science, which with 20 minutes a day, three times a week, will help older drivers cut the risk of being in an accident by up to 50 percent.
The so-called brain-training software package costs $79 through the Posit Science store and has versions for both Mac and PC. But for primary drivers who complete ten hours of training, the company will send a reward check for $50.
Those using the program were able to stop 22 feet sooner from 55 mph.
That’s among the findings from The Hartford Brain Fitness Survey, funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted among 2,500 Americans 18 or older.
The company offers the following tips for improving mental fitness:
- Eat dark chocolate - Dark chocolate causes your brain to release dopamine, a chemical that improves overall brain function and improves your memory.
- Eat fish - Studies suggest that a diet rich in fish - especially fatty fish like salmon - can improve brain function.
- Play ball - Throwing a ball up in the air and catching it, or better yet, trying your hand at juggling, can improve your hand-eye coordination and carries widespread brain health benefits.
- Rest up - Getting a good night's sleep is critical to brain function, and particularly memory.
- Make your hobbies harder - Take on something a bit more difficult than you're used to. By putting higher demands on your brain, you will have to concentrate harder and re-engage your brain's learning ability.
- Walk on a rocky road - Scientists believe that walking on uneven surfaces like cobblestones improves the vestibular system of the inner ear, which plays a central role in balance and equilibrium and translates to better balance.
- Visit a museum - Go on a guided tour and pay very careful attention to what you see and hear. When you get home, write an outline of the tour that includes every detail you remember. Paying attention and practicing remembering can help the brain pump brain chemicals that assist memory and improve brain function.
- Exercise your brain - Use brain fitness exercises like DriveSharp that promotes the ability for drivers to think faster, focus better, and react more quickly.
- Learn to play a new instrument - Playing an instrument helps you exercise many interrelated dimensions of brain function, including listening, control of refined movement, and translation of written notes (sight) to music (movement and sound).
- Use your other hand - While you may find it difficult at first, practicing an activity such as brushing your teeth with your subordinate hand can drive your brain to make positive changes.