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Seen At 11: Training Your Brain

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Most people go to the gym to exercise their bodies, but what about going to the gym and working out your mind?

Brain fitness is a growing movement, and it's not just crossword puzzles and memory games anymore, reports CBS 2's Chris Wragge.

It may have looked like Laura Brumberg was exercising her arms and legs, but it's her brain she was really working out.

"It takes a few minutes, and it allows for focus and concentration," Brumberg said.

Brumberg is part of a worldwide fitness revolution called "brain training." The burgeoning industry includes everything from computer-based programs to actual "brain gyms" – places you go to build mental functions, much the same way you would with muscles.

"It could be as simple as balancing your checkbook or organizing your house," Mari Miyoshi said.

Miyoshi is what you might call a "brain trainer." She teaches a series of physical movements that are said to stimulate different areas of the brain to help increase mental performance.

"As you start to do these developmental movements, more neural connections are made between all parts of the brain," Miyoshi said.

Personal fitness trainer Brant Amunzson is used to working out his body, and is now a firm believer of also working out his brain.

"There are different parts of our brains, and we tend to hang out in certain parts, and this allows us more access to more parts more often," Amunzson said.

"I've learned some activities that I can do before a presentation, just to increase my focus and to allow me to be in a more relaxed place," Brumberg said.

Brain training software is also growing in popularity, especially at the workplace.

"I thought it would be useful for my professionals, many of whom are over 50, to have their brains tuned up a little bit," Howard Newman said.

Newman, chief executive officer at a New York venture capital firm, said computer games have helped to improve his cognitive abilities, and now he's hoping it benefits his employees too.

"It affects the speed at which your brain functions, and the strength," Newman said.

But is there any science behind brain training?

"You want a better brain, you have to use it," Dr. Carolyn Brockington said.

Dr. Brockington, a neurologist, said that – believe it or not – the brain gets bored, so introducing new physical and mental scenarios can boost its ability.

However, Dr. Brockington said you don't necessarily need to buy a program to do it.

"If you want to learn a new language, if you want to go to an art class, if you want to join a gym," Dr. Brockington said.

While you can't protect yourself from diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's, experts say that keeping your brains busy can make you less likely to develop memory problems later in life.

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