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How to Exercise for Brain Health

Renee Eder on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I've decided to become more physically active. In fact, today I am trying one of those free SUP Yoga classes at the J. I am making this change in my life not only because I'm overweight and enjoy more than an occasional donut. Research shows that exercising your body is also good for your brain, and I need all the help I can get, since most people on my father's side have or have had dementia.

These are some examples of physical activity that have been shown to help improve your brain health and keep your mind sharp:

  • Taking a Brisk Walk: If you don't exercise now, it's easy to start. Just walk out your door and keep going. Start small. Build up from 10 minutes walking a day until you get to at least 30. And if you can, pick up your pace. Getting your heart rate up will maximize the benefits to your brain! Don't want to walk outside? Come to the J and walk on one of our treadmills, while listening to your favorite motivational tunes.
  • Challenge Yourself: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week, which is five 30-minute workouts. But the biggest boost in brain health has been linked to exercise sessions of 45 to 60 minutes. So try consolidating some workouts into a longer session. Or gradually work up to 45 to 60 minutes, five days per week.
  • Resistance Training Can Help, Too: Resistance training, exercise that causes muscles to contract, is meant to strengthen, but it may also help protect against cognitive decline. And you don't need weights or other equipment. The CDC recommends resistance training at least twice per week. Here are three tips to get you started:
    • Stand up, sit down, repeat. As long as you're steady on your feet, try standing up from a chair without using your hands. Do this in sets of five or more anytime you find yourself sitting around the house.
    • Make daily tasks harder. Choose stairs over elevators and escalators. You'll get an aerobic workout and build muscle at the same time.
    • Join a class at the J. Group programs incorporating resistance and aerobic training were beneficial for the brain. Check out the offerings at the J, and remember to talk with your doctor before you start any new exercise program.

Exercise can also boost your mood, help you maintain a healthy weight, and keep muscles strong. If you don't do so already, come on down to the J and take a class, hire a trainer, or simply go for a run, or a swim, or lift some weights in our gym!

Want to learn more about brain health, nutrition, technology, travel, and more for seniors? Be sure to attend the Northern Virginia Positive Aging and Wellness Fair presented by Innovation Health on Sunday, 10/22, at the Inova Center for Personalized Health Conference Center (formerly ExxonMobil, across from Inova Fairfax Hospital). The fair includes more than 30 interactive and informative workshops promoting active aging through healthy lifestyles that may help you live longer, more independently, and more positively. Bob Levey, former columnist for The Washington Post, is the keynote speaker. There will also be a trade show featuring more than 35 exhibitors, nonprofits, and government agencies offering one-on-one assistance and resources. Admission is $20 per ticket. The fair is geared for adults 50+. Visit positiveagingfair.com for more details!

 

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