As we get older, exercising the body can keep us healthier, and exercising the mind can keep our brains sharper. But new findings indicate that not all mental activities offer the same amount of benefits.

It appears that doing something new is better than doing something familiar. Research to be published in the journal Psychological Science found that older adults who were instructed to learn a new skill -- in this case, digital photography or quilting -- showed more improvements in memory than those who continued doing more accustomed tasks -- in this case, listening to music or doing word puzzles.

Researchers concluded that doing something challenging that also is new and unfamiliar provides more mental stimulation. Denise Park of the University of Texas, the study's lead researcher, told the Association for Psychological Science, "When you are inside your comfort zone, you may be outside of the enhancement zone."

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