A study by Berkeley University showed that there are significant health benefits from learning to play bridge.
Back in 2000, Professor Marian Diamond showed that playing bridge boosts the immune system. Bridge requires concentration and while you are playing your brain is kept active and stimulated. It seems that this boosts your immune system.
Professor Diamond wanted to find out if it was possible to use the dorsolateral cortex to boost your immune system. He enlisted the help of twelve ladies in their 70s and 80s. He took blood samples and then asked them to play bridge for an hour and a half. After that, their blood was tested again. A staggering two thirds of these ladies had increased levels of T cells in their bodies – the cells used to fight infection.
Many people find that as they get older their brain seems to slow down. Like muscles, your brain needs to be used to keep it functioning well. People are living longer and many people are concerned about helping their brains to stay active and alert so they can enjoy this longer life to the full.
Playing bridge regularly stimulates your brain and helps keep your memory active and your brain alert. It requires you to use maths, strategy and concentration. There is an old saying “use it or lose it” – playing bridge helps you to “use it”. While you are playing a game of bridge you brain is kept fully active, working out your hand, working out your best approach to bidding, following your partner’s bidding and working out how their hand fits with yours. Finally, when you are actually playing the hand, working out the best strategy for maximising the number of tricks won by you and your partner.
Many beginning bridge players concentrate on learning the bidding and forget that learning strategies for play can make a big difference to your overall score. This part of the game is one of the biggest mental challenges, requiring you to concentrate and stay focused long after the actual bidding has finished.
Are there any other health benefits to playing bridge? Of course there are. You will be meeting people and enjoying an active social life. Instead of sitting at home feeling miserable and lonely and with no-one to talk to, you will be engaging in conversations and getting out and about – which will help keep you physically active too.
Nearly a year after I first wrote about why playing bridge is good for your health, I noticed this article by Barbara Lynch Hill http://www.journalscene.com/article/20130822/SJ11/130829835/1149/a-bridge-game-over-troubled-waters
Barbara writes about meeting a lady called Doris who enjoyed playing bridge but had been housebound while she recovered from an illness. She discovered that she could play bridge online and quickly made friends with a group of bridge players. After a few years, they took to meeting up regularly. Playing bridge online had given Doris an interest to alleviate the boredom whilst she was ill and enhanced her social life when she recovered.