Cardio exercise has officially moved into the number one spot for “the best thing you can do for your brain” (AARP Bulletin, Get Moving for a Healthy Brain, Sept 2013, pgs 12-13). Take that crossword puzzles, foreign languages, and musical instruments! (Also touted as great vehicles to boost brain power, but downshifted out of first place given the latest research).
If you want to keep smart, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half, repair brain cell damage, and basically grow a bigger brain, you’ve got to dance, baby, dance! Face facts midlifers and baby boomers — if you do not eke out at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, your brain actually shrinks every year post 40, year after sedentary year.
But if you want to increase your brain size and capability — cue harps and trumpets — then find a way to work in about 22 aerobic minutes each day. Or 50 minutes three times a week. Or 75 minutes twice a week. I can do this math for you because I boosted my brain teaching step class and walking my dogs. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful (read our post on what walking can do for you). Walking for brain gain is even more powerful and impactful! Or try dancing, swimming, getting on a treadmill, biking, hiking, gardening even (could this be any easier? No I am not going to include watching Dancing With the Stars on this list even though I admit total fanaticism for the show.) It really does not take much time or effort to succeed with a brain fitness program.
Let me stress again how powerful movement is for your brain — each and every time you exercise, you get a bigger hippocampus (that’s sexy talk for the post 50 crowd); you stimulate the growth of new neurons; you cut your risk of dementia by 60 percent. Can I get a rah rah here with a pom pom thrown in please?
As Dr. Michael Luan, a friend and expert on Conscious Movement puts it, “We exercise to become better humans. Conscious Movement evolves your brain. The body is your ultimate tool for success, and we all have the potential for greatness. Success with your body creates success with your career, relationships, and ultimately, your life.” The better your brain, the better your life, wouldn’t you say?
Movement will improve your focus, increase your mood, enhance your decision-making processes, help your ability to plan, regenerate brain cells, help your memory, and basically outsmart all those young people who can’t believe how sharp you are for a person your age.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Are you over 50, one day hope to be, or have loved ones who are? Then the following quotes and key points from the recent IDEA World Health and Fitness Convention are for you! And you! And, yes, you too! All of yahs! And your parents, as well. But only if you want to live healthier, smarter, or better.
My prior post promised to share the good stuff from the trend setting sessions beyond Day 1 at IDEA. This year’s convention theme was “Inspire, Connect, Transform.” We hope the following quotes and highlights do that for you.
Day 2 started with one of my favorite subjects: the effects on the brain from movement. Who among you knows someone with Alzheimer’s or memory loss or slowing mental capacity? Of course such ravages will never happen to us, right?
Guess what? “A case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds in the U.S. If our nation were to increase its activity by 25%, we would decrease dementia cases by 1 million per year! Over 10% of adults 65 and older, and more than 50% of those past 80 have some sort of cognitive impairment.” And with these stats that take one’s breath away faster than an elliptical machine on an incline, expert presenter, Fabio Comana opened his talk, Brain Fitness.
“If you want to live longer, work in 20 minutes daily of cardio activity.” And if you want to know what’s going on in those added years, “a mere 8-12 minutes a day of aerobic exercise improves cognition.” You want to be smart and minimize dementia in your later years? Take Fabios’s advice. Don’t just think about moving. Move to think!
So I did. Over to the next session with one of my favorite presenters, Shari Kalkstein who specializes in physical function for people 70 and older. Also known as “parents of baby boomers.” Am I right? If you want your parents (insert “yourself when older”) to be independent and active as long as possible, then Shari’s protocols and warnings are important. (Click on her links to see exercises, assessments, and practical tips).
Her session, I’ve Fallen, made a strong case for preventing falls and setting up the home to account for them when they happen. And they will. “More than 18,000 older adults died from injuries related to falls in 2007. In 2008, more than 2 million older adults were treated in emergency rooms due to fall injuries.” Wonder where most falls occur? In the home, where, as Shari says, “we have complete control over our environment.” Like her, my sis and I have lots of practical moves and solutions to address this reality.
After I’ve Fallen, I moseyed my way to The Future of Fitness Technology with Marco Della Torre. Spoiler alert – I earned an IDEA Fitness Inspiration Medal by correctly answering his stumper question. And talk about a coincidence, turns out Marco is one of the co-founders of Basis, now owned by Intel, the company from which I won a Basis fitness and sleep tracker. So I won two technology related prizes in a row! Yup, it’s always worthwhile to get to the IDEA Trade Show between and after educational sessions. Anyway, wearable technology is big and about to go humongous! Ready to take advantage of fun high tech fitness gear? Check out a few of our posts on the subject:
Accepting and agreeing that fitness technology will wield an ever growing impact on our workout lives, I loved how Marco ended his talk: “The biggest trend coming in wearable tech is that new ideas and products will bring people closer, rather than driving them apart.” Think about that for a sec. Instead of seeing the top of people’s heads as they bend over their phones and pedometers, you’ll be in a new world of gadgets that connect you with others more and more.
Imagine a community of like-minded, actively aging, high-functioning people who interact personally via stuff not yet invented. Might you already have something close to this? It’s coming, so be ready to Inspire, Connect, and Transform! Or maybe you will Invent the next best thing that gets people to exercise and enjoy the benefits of lifelong movement. I’ll plug that!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans
Readers: What wearable tech do you already own? Use? What do you think of it? When is the last time you crawled? Not pub crawled, but crawled like an infant?