Can you imagine making your brain do almost double the work it does now? It sounds exhausting, but flexing mental muscles can help improve our brain power and give us a major mental boost in all aspects of life: at home, the office, school; even the local pub quiz team!It takes just two weeks of mental exercising to boost our brain’s capacity and help it reach its peak, according to new research by Dr Chamorro-Premuzic. His intensive study found that a mental exercise routine helps improve our BFI – or Brain Fitness Index – and is just as important as our Body Mass Index (BMI) for general wellbeing.The thinking man’s dream woman, Carol Vorderman, is set to get the nation’s grey matter into tip-top condition through a new series of mental exercises. Carol Vorderman’s Mind Aerobics is a mental workout created with Sky that’s designed to have the same effect on our BFI as a daily trip to the gym has on our BMI.Keeping the mind agile helps us stay motivated and increases our confidence in carrying out our daily tasks, whether that’s managing a company, looking after a home or doing our homework. Unlike a vigorous trip to the gym, there’s no need to shower after doing Carol’s mental exercises which can be done online, via a mobile or through interactive TV. First caught up with the Countdown Maestro to reveal how she keeps her brain in such great shape.Why is brain fitness important?

Well we’re launching Carole Voderman’s mind aerobics, which is a way of testing your brain everyday, and training it so that you open up your mind to all sorts of different things. Through research with the University of London we’ve found that the people who have been doing it – our human guinea pigs, have been able to concentrate better on everything in their lives, their relationships have improved, their verbal abilities have gone up and they’re got greater self confidence, all things that all of us want. So that’s why you should train your brain.

How do the exercises work?

Well what we’ve done is we’ve basically chopped your brain up into five main bits. The chunk that deals with the creative side of your life, one that deals with the logic, one that deals with attention, another with memory and another with perception. Now when I look at puzzle pages I tend to look at number puzzles and sudoku and that sort of thing. You’re probably not too surprised at that. But what I have done over the years is I’ve started to close down my mind to other games and puzzles which are available. Now with mind aerobics, you’re not allowed to do that. You have to practise with them all and you have to be tested with them all. At the end of each test you are given what we call your brain fitness index, which is a number between 1 and 100. You want that to be as high as possible. After two weeks, our human guinea pigs found that they were able to up their BMI by 80%, which is fantastic. It shows that their minds were opening up and the benefits – they’re not only great games to play, but also that their lives were improving too.

Can anyone start doing the exercises?

Anyone can do these exercises, no matter what sex or age you are. Your nana can do, women like myself – working mums with kids can do it. Men with careers can and students can do it. If students do it, they do find that they’re better with their studies.

What other brain tips can you offer people?

You can also make sure that you’re feeding your brain and your body with the right things. I’m not talking about getting evangelical about never touching anything that’s not organic here. I’m just saying “everything in moderation” But don’t overload with the McDonalds and the doughnuts, because what you will find is that your sugar levels are up and down and that does have an affect on your brain and your energy, and also on your attitude to life generally.

How’s it been going now Des O’Connor is in the Countdown chair?

Yeah, now we’ve got Des hosting Countdown, which is brilliant. I mean he’s wonderful. He’s a classic example really of someone who has an open attitude and an open brain. He’s 75, he has a two-year-old son and he lives with a woman who’s nearly ten years younger than me. If you just met him as “Des the bloke” in the pub and you didn’t know he was Des O’Connor you’d think he was in his early fifties. He’s got a tremendous attitude and he’s very open to opportunities and change. Chatting to people – he loves the people – I think that’s a key part of it.

Where did your passion for numbers first spring from?

I first started getting interested in numbers when I was about three. I think it was something I was particularly born with – like musicians love to hear music, I love to play with numbers. I just find them friends really – particularly when I was in my twenties and studying all sorts of different numbers. I’d stare at pages of numbers for hours – I’d go oh lovely, how exciting” whereas other people would go “weirdo.”

Are Trinny and Susannah still off your Christmas card list?

Poor Trinny and Susannah (She Laughs) No, I would just never take any of their fashion advice and I don’t see why anyone else should really. But they’ve made a living out of it – a very healthy living out of it too. I prefer “What Not to Wear” with these two new presenters cos the ratings have gone up for the series. They’re just livelier and they’re more how I would want to dress really. More style.

Mother’s Day is coming up – what do you have up your sleeve for your own mum this year?

Well my mum doesn’t like to get presents. (Laughs) We’re not really into presents and things we’re more into golden days and big events. We have lots of parties. We tend to give throughout the year then, if that makes sense rather than save it all up for a particular day. But I’m hoping that there will be my kids, me and my mum together on Mothers Day itself and that’s what we’re trying to arrange at the moment. I’ve lived with my mum more or less all my life but right now I’m living with the children in Bristol and I’m waiting for her to come down – it’s all a bit complicated with houses and things. So I’m hoping she will be down that particular weekend.

There’s been rampant rumours that Liam Gallagher has agreed to sit in Dictionary Corner for Countdown – is that definitely confirmed now?

Well no, I did an interview with someone and said that he certainly watches Countdown and that got converted into “He’s Coming Into Dictionary Corner.” But that’s the first I’ve heard of it.

What would Susie Dent make of him sitting next to her for the day?

It would definitely be interesting!

Is there anybody that you’ve personally really wanted to get into the corner and not managed to yet – maybe Liam’s rival Damon Albarn?

Yeah, George Clooney. Apparently he did watch when he was ill one day. He had flu in his hotel room in Claridges and starting watching Countdown. So he’s got an open invitation for obvious reasons. (Laughs)

What’s your secret to looking good, as you get older? It must be a thrill to be on these 100 Sexiest Ladies polls?

Well believe me after you get to forty everything tries to head south and you have to spend more time and effort trying to keep it heading north. It’s a pain in the neck, but there you go! (Laughs) There’s no easy way.

You do like following a detox diet don’t you though?

I do have caffeine. I had a couple of cups of coffee this morning. But when I’m doing a detox, (I last did one in January) I drop a dress size and that more or less gets me back on the straight and narrow. After that it’s everything in moderation again really. The detox is brilliant – a lot of people find it so because it’s not just about your weight, it’s about your skin, your energy etc. It’s all sorts of different aspects and if you can do it for months you’ve kind of fixed your taste buds so that the rest of it is easy really.

Do you have your own personal stylist or image consultant?

In terms of choosing clothes – I buy all my own clothes for Countdown and I wear a lot of dresses right now. I do get a lot of the “Oh where did you buy that dress from,” thing more now, which is lovely. But for a big event – you tend to be loaned stuff like Versace or Hardy Amies or wherever and for that I do tend to use a stylist because they’ve got all the contacts. They bring all the outfits – like 20 different dresses to you and you try them on to see what’s suitable. I would for say The Pride of Britain Awards or the Baftas or something like that.

The Pride of Britain Awards are just lovely. As they’ve gone on I think they’ve become more important. Everything has got sillier and sillier and dafter and dafter - for instance, the promotion of people who really shouldn’t be promoted in the media at all – like the Jade Goody’s of this world. The Pride of Britain Awards show what really happens in this country. Those are the people that should be applauded, lorded and really celebrated. That’s why the ratings of it are going up and up – people are starved of that sort of goodness on television and want to see more of it.

Would you describe yourself as a competitive individual?

I used to be “highly” competitive. I used to be a workaholic and used to be very ambitious, but that’s kind of been drained out of me over the last few years. I just don’t get the same buzz from things like I used to, in that kind of ambitious way. I get a buzz in a different way now – where I find something that gives me satisfaction – like the Mind Aerobics thing – because I enjoy it rather than a competitive thing.

What about becoming a mother – some ladies say that changes things for them…....

Yeah – when I had the children first of all, I was still highly so, but as they’ve got older – I’m one of those mothers who’s enjoyed them more as they’ve got older. I was never really a baby person. You find some mums love them being babies and then not so keen as they become teenagers. Like a lot of mums. I prefer it the other way. So we have a great time now and I’ve enjoyed them more after the age of five I would say. When you can do things that everybody enjoys rather than having to go into the park and push a swing for two hours.

Does being clever deter the blokes?

(Laughs) I don’t think so, but it’s only recently that I’ve become single again. For the first time in about twenty years, so I couldn’t really comment to be honest (Laughs Again)

You did an engineering course at University – it’s still a largely male dominated industry now though isn’t it?

Yes – I did engineering in Cambridge in 1978, so it’s a lifetime ago. It was highly male orientated then – it was 4-5% female. It has improved, but it still is I think only about 12%. It is one of those areas where it’s not the best-paid job in the world even though you have to work damned hard to become a professional chartered engineer. But such is life really. The engineering industry will get out what it puts in, and I’ve had lots of arguments with them over the years for making it too difficult for kids to go into it and not giving them the rewards that they should have. You do find that students will go to the City or will go into something else rather than engineering because they can earn five times more money.

You’re still a very successful career woman. What would you say to today’s wild, stars like Britney and Lindsay Lohan?

Well they’re people who have been stars since they were very, very young. I think it’s very hard for them. But one thing that I would say very seriously to any young people is it has been proved now by brain scans on particularly teens and people in their young twenties –for the majority of people who take drugs on a regular basis at that age - it causes permanent brain damage. If you do that you will be in rehab for the rest of your life – so don’t even start. There is no other way – I mean look at Robbie Williams, he’ll be going to rehab for a very long time to come. It’s such a terrible waste of a life. Don’t do it – don’t be conned, it’s not glamorous and it’s certainly not clever. You can have a good time for decades without them.

I believe you’re a secret lover of the Vicar of Dibley – how do you feel now that’s finished?

Yeah – well when the BBC did Britain’s Best Sitcom, a couple of years ago I was the person who was asking for votes and pleading on her behalf. I got her from tenth place to second on the night. So I was thrilled with that – just behind Only Fools and Horses much to everyone’s surprise. It had finished before that – the BBC said, “oh it’s very old fashioned, we’re not re-commissioning it” and then when they found out how popular it was they suddenly rediscovered it and brought it back. I think if they did another one in three or four years time that would be great, but it’s been so fantastic and a bit like Only Fools and Horses, sometimes they’re best laid to rest whilst they’re excellent.

What other projects have you got going on?

I’ve got Countdown going on for quite some time and I’m doing that wonderful shown on BBC1 called “Who Do You Think You Are” where you trace your family tree later on in the year. Also the Pride of Britain Awards. I’m busy enough! I never met my Dad till I was 42 and I’m 46 now, so there’s a whole side of the family – other than my half sisters that I know nothing about. So I think it will be quite an emotional trip to be honest.

To register for the games online log on to It costs £11.95 for a year of unlimited plays

To play on your mobile just text Go CAROLV to 85080. It costs £5 for a 1 off fee (payable via your mobile bill).

To play on Sky Interactive TV press interactive on your Sky remote and go to Sky Gamester. It costs 75p per play or £1.50 for a 2 day pass

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