Engagement in mentally stimulating activities is linked to a lower risk of age-related memory loss, a new study says. Moreover, greater participation appears to fuel better outcomes.

Investigators tracked 2,000 people with an average age of 78 for about five years. Activities studied included crafting, computer use, playing games and socializing. Those who reported engaging in three or more activities were over 40% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who avoided activities. Participation in two activities was linked to a 28% lower risk. Older participants often benefitted most.

The researchers focused on symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. They did not study dementia.

“There is growing interest in lifestyle factors that may help slow brain aging believed to contribute to thinking and memory problems; factors that are low cost and available to anyone,” concluded study author Yonas E. Geda, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Age-related memory loss, also called mild cognitive impairment, can affect the ability to complete complex tasks and retrieve names and other information from memory.

Read the study