Boosting brainpowerSure, some people are just naturally smarter than others, but that doesn't mean you can't train your brain to excel at whatever the task is at hand. Whether you'd like to blitz your new language class or lead your team to victory at the local pub quiz, bluff your way to a smarter you with these tips.

Not feeling as sharp as you used to? Are the perfect words that once won you a promotion now getting trapped on the tip of your tongue, languishing there until after the meeting, uselessly influencing no one?

Well, here's some good news, 90s band Marcy's Playground may have been on to something with their hit song 'Sex & Candy' - British researchers have recently found that sex and dark chocolate can actually help boost your brain power!

Along with that fascinating research from the UK, it has been found that reclaiming your memory and taking full advantage of your intellect can be as easy as adjusting your diet and relaxing with a crossword or Sodoku puzzle after a lazy jog around the park.

The old adage 'use it or lose it' can be aptly applied to the brain. Like any other muscle in your body, the brain needs exercise and a targeted, nutritional diet in order to function at its best. Maintaining cognitive fitness through brain exercises is becoming big business as employers recognise the importance of keeping their staff mentally fit. Be it for work or just personal satisfaction, you need not spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on products to boost your intellectual worth. We have compiled a few tips and pointers to help you ward off premature memory- loss along with some other common mental challenges facing many of us each day.

Using your intellect

In their book Teach Yourself: Training Your Brain, authors Terry Horne and Simon Wootton discovered that the brain releases different chemicals during the sexual process. From the moment you begin contemplating intercourse to achieving orgasm, the chemicals released at various stages help your brain to think more clearly.

The increase in levels of the 'trust' hormone, oxytocin, for example, increases your ability to think of novel or risky solutions to problems.

Similarly, the rise in serotonin levels after sex, aids both creative thinking and calm, logical decision-making, all very significant facets of intellectual ability.

The authors also found that the magnesium and antioxidant flavonols contained in dark chocolate increase the amount of oxygen carried to the brain which, among other things, can enhance the brain's ability to retain information and can reduce the chance of stroke.

Being intellectually, or 'cognitively' fit, helps you by enhancing your ability to make decisions, solve problems and deal with stress and change. These are highly important in everyday life and can be maintained through adhering to a few simple lifestyle choices.

The world renowned Harvard Business Review has recognised some easy ways to keep your brain fit. In order to boost your brain power, play games involving risk. Risk alerts the brain and activates your imagination. Crosswords, chess and sudoku are cheap, accessible games with great potential for a neural workout. Or, try challenging yourself by expanding your existing mind-set. Experiencing new places and listening to different viewpoints is a great way to start. These new and different experiences help to stimulate your brain.

The Harvard Business Review urges people who wish to stay cognitively fit to engage in challenging activities, such as studying a new language, learning to paint or taking lessons on a new musical instrument.

And of course, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise for the rest of your body is very important as it provides the brain with the solid foundation from which to flourish.

Improving your memory

The key to improving your memory, as with your intellect, is exercise, both physical and mental.

Physical fitness is equally as important as mental fitness. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and can enhance helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells.

The New York Times wrote recently that fitness training slows the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex, which is important for overall brain function. Exercise can assist in improving cardiovascular health, which in turn, reduces the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes which can damage the brain. Exercise also increases the connections between neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain very important for memory.

A proven way to increase your ability to remember is to test your brain against challenging puzzles and games at least once a day. Crosswords are a favourite among experts because they force you to use the part of the brain devoted to language. Along with stimulating important areas of the brain, crosswords assist you to build your vocabulary and rediscover those pesky words that get caught on the tip of your tongue. Sodoku, Scrabble, Bridge or even a regular, challenging conversation with a friend about new or demanding topics, can work wonders with memory improvement.