There are plenty of proven ways for adults to increase their IQ. Taking these same steps is also effective at improving overall cognitive and mental health.
The media is full of news about how to raise a child’s IQ.
Giving them music lessons, feeding them fish, or teaching them a second language are all proven ways to elevate IQ levels in children. (1)
But is it possible for adults to increase their IQ?
It was once thought that everyone was born with a set level of intelligence, but now we know that the brain continues to change throughout our lifetime. (2)
This means that you have the potential to increase your intelligence and IQ at any age.
So let’s take a look at some of the things adults should do in order to raise their IQ.
I’ll also discuss lifestyle factors you should avoid that have the opposite effect.
Proven Ways to Increase IQ
IQ, or intelligence quotient, is a comparison of your cognitive abilities to others of your own age. (3)
IQ tests are designed to measure your general ability to solve problems and understand concepts, but it’s not an absolute measure of your intelligence. (4)
Here’s a look at activities proven to boost IQ in adults.
Physical exercise promotes the flow of oxygen, glucose, and nutrients to your brain.
Brain plasticity is associated with increased intelligence and larger brain volume. (6)
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Even as little as one 30-minute exercise session will enhance brain plasticity. (7)
A study that involved over one million young men linked physical fitness with higher IQ. (8)
Play Dual N-Back
Dual n-back is the first brain exercise proven to raise a player’s general level of intelligence.
By increasing working memory capacity, it can boost your IQ. (9)
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Biohacker Dave Asprey claims that he gained an impressive 2.75 IQ points for every hour of dual n-back training he performed. (10)
You can download one of the many dual n-back apps or try dual n-back online.
Quora.com has a list of places you can play dual n-back online for free.
15 Brain Exercises to Keep Your Mind Sharp
If dual n-back isn’t your style, take up chess instead.
Chess increases concentration, problem-solving skills, and stimulates both sides of the brain. (11)
It gives your working memory a good workout and can increase IQ. (12)
Continue Lifelong Education
By exposing you to new information and new problems to be solved, going to school raises IQ by several points a year. (13)
Schooling is not necessarily formal education.
Being open to new experiences and seeking out new things to do and learn is a personality trait associated with higher IQ. (14)
You might want to resume music training you started as a child.
The benefits of visual art programs are equally impressive.
Art lessons improve brain plasticity, fluid intelligence, IQ, and attention in both adults and children. (16)
The Brain Benefits of Learning a Second Language
Take Fish Oil
There are many supplements that have a positive effect on brain health and function, but only one so far has been shown to raise IQ in adults — fish oil.
Researchers in Scotland followed study participants for over 50 years, from childhood through their senior years. (17)
One study group took fish oil and one did not.
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At age 11, both groups had the same average IQ of 100.
But by the age of 64, the group that did not take fish oil had lost 5 IQ points while the fish oil group had gained 6 points over their childhood scores.
Have a Mentally Challenging Job
If your job involves complex relationships, elaborate systems, or solving difficult problems, that’s a good thing for your brain.
All that extra work and struggle keeps you mentally sharp.
When a group of 250 middle-aged adults were followed for six years, those in complex occupations were found to perform better on cognitive tests. (18)
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It makes you more efficient at processing information. (21)
So it should come as no surprise that it also can boost IQ. (22)
Biofeedback is a technique that teaches you to manage functions such as heart rate and brain wave activity that are normally not under your control.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that works by measuring brain wave patterns.
When adults and children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) received two neurofeedback sessions per week, the average IQ gain was a substantial 12 points. (23)
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There are now personal neurofeedback devices you can use at home.
While there’s no guarantee that using one will increase your IQ, it can put you in the same brain wave state as meditation. (24)
Do the Mensa Workout
Mensa is a worldwide organization for people with above average intelligence.
You need to score in the 98th percentile on an approved IQ test to join.
But anyone can take Mensa’s 30-minute brain workout.
You can try it for free online at Mensa Workout.
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Don’t Sabotage Your IQ
There’s little point in undertaking the IQ enhancing measures we’ve just covered if your lifestyle is sabotaging your efforts.
The brain-impairing activities below may drop your IQ over time regardless of your efforts otherwise.
Research shows that smoking can lower your IQ by 7 points.
Young men who smoke are likely to have lower IQs than their non-smoking peers.
A study published in 2010 found that the average IQ for a young, non-smoking male was about 101, while average IQ of a young male who smoked was 94.
Smoking more lowers IQ even further.
Those who smoked more than a pack a day had IQs around 90. (25)
Stop Shorting Your Sleep
Insomnia affects roughly half of all adults. (26)
Regularly not getting enough sleep undermines the long-term health and function of your brain.
It can also do some serious damage to your IQ.
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According to Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre, every hour short of the recommended eight hours per night can knock one point off your IQ.
They’ve issued a report that pulls no punches.
It concludes that regularly losing two hours of sleep per night can result in a person with an average IQ becoming “borderline retarded.” (27)
Mental Effects of Chronic Insomnia (& How to Stop It)
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Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Drinking in moderation promotes health and longevity and can protect your brain and keep your mentally sharp as you age. (28)
Alcoholic beverages are regularly consumed in the three countries with the most centenarians — France, Italy and Japan.
Seniors who drink moderately decrease their risk of dementia by up to 60%. (29)
Nicotine: An Unlikely Brain Enhancing Drug
Most toothpastes and tap water in the United States contains added fluoride for preventing tooth decay.
But this is a highly controversial practice since fluoride is a neurotoxin linked to ADHD, Alzheimer’s, autism, depression, and nervous system degeneration. (31)
Dozens of studies correlate fluoride with reduced IQ in both adults and children. (32)
You can check with your local water department to find out whether your water contains added fluoride.
If so, consider getting a filter that removes fluoride. Most do not.
One of the few water filters that removes fluoride is the Big Berkey Water System.
Most people multitask in an attempt to get more done.
But the evidence is very clear that multitasking makes you less productive.
Switching back and forth between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. (33)
Interrupting one task to suddenly focus on another results in reduced attention span, learning, and performance. (34)
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It also disrupts short-term memory, one of the three components measured by IQ tests. (35)
Multitasking can temporarily reduce IQ by an alarming 15 points. (36)
The Surprising Truth About IQ Tests
IQ is not the absolute measure of intelligence that most people believe it to be!
Your IQ score does not represent an absolute measure of your intelligence.
It only tells you where you stand compared to everyone else.
A score of 100 is always the overall average score of all test participants, no matter how many right or wrong answers are included in that score of 100. (37)
There’s a prevailing theory that overall intelligence, at least as measured by IQ scores, has been increasing over time due to improvements in factors like nutrition and education.
This phenomenon of IQ drift has been coined the Flynn effect after psychologist James Flynn.
What this means for you is that even if you succeed in improving your IQ test results, the bar is constantly being raised, possibly leaving your scores relatively constant.
The Only Way to Take a Certified IQ Test
Free online tests of all kinds almost always have hidden costs and IQ tests are no different.
Most commonly, free online tests are used to gather data which is sold to advertisers.
If you want to know your true IQ score, you can take the test under the guidance of a licensed psychologist. (38)
That is the only way to be sure you are taking a certified IQ test.
I contacted Mensa.org about this and they confirmed that the internet is rife with bogus IQ tests and that legitimate tests can only be administered by someone with professional training.
Should Increasing IQ Be the Goal?
Taking active measures specifically to increase IQ is probably best thought of as a means to an end.
It seems that any gains made from IQ-boosting strategies are temporary and last as long as you continue to engage in that activity. (39)
Just as once you quit exercising a muscle, it eventually goes back to its original strength, intelligence negatively adapts to lesser demands as well.
And while there is some correlation between high IQ and success in the world, there are other factors that are as much or more important such as motivation, mindset, creativity, emotional intelligence, attitude, and plain old hard work and self-discipline. (40, 41)
So, consider the lifestyle factors discussed here as just part of a brain-healthy lifestyle that can help improve your overall cognitive and mental health — and your IQ.
Increasing IQ: The Bottom Line
There are measures you can take to increase IQ, but most are the same steps advocated for improving brain health and fitness.
Even if you manage to gain a few IQ points, that doesn’t necessarily make you smarter.
So there is no need to focus on boosting your IQ score.
IQ measures your ability to learn but not other factors essential to a rewarding, successful life.