Category Archives: Exercise

Exercise For Better Brain Health

We all know that exercise is great for our muscles, our bones, joints, how we look, and how we feel.  However, what about exercise for better brain health? It’s true. You may not believe it but the stakes of not exercising are higher than you might have thought.brain health

Most folks don’t get enough exercise, and we have a plethora of excuses.  Too tired, no time, too expensive, no motivation, and sadly, 25% of us say we are simply okay with being sedentary.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re far from alone. Most of us, age 40-plus, are not logging the recommended 2.5 hours per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity that’s good for us, and importantly, our brains. Staying active is key to maintaining our brain health. Getting regular exercise can even change our brain structure and improve its functioning.

Interestingly, a thirty-minute cardio session pumps extra blood to your brain, to deliver the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform at its best ability. Cardio will also flood the parts of the brain with chemicals, including serotonin, the famed mood booster; dopamine, which affects learning and attention; and norepinephrine, which influences attention, perception, motivation, and arousal. This exercise-induced chemical cocktail has a powerful impact. “By elevating neurotransmitters in the brain, it helps us focus, feel better, and release tension,” says, John Ratey, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

New research has found that this kind of exercise may even cause permanent structural changes to the brain itself. People who participate in purposeful exercise show beneficial changes in brain structure and function. People who lead a physically active lifestyle have a lower risk of cognitive decline.

By exercising regularly, all that rushing of blood and hormones primes your brain to grow. In one study, researchers scanned the brains of people who exercised for one hour per day, three days a week, for a duration of six months. They discovered an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. Working out literally bulked up the study participants’ brains, allowing them to perform better at tasks that require concentration and recall.

As we age, maintaining and improving our brain health can help us stay in our own homes longer. Having the ability to stay independent longer also helps maintain a sense of self-worth. The best part?  You can begin an exercise program today.  There’s no real reason to wait!

 

Caregivers Can Get Fit At Home

As a caregiver, you likely do not have the time to hit the gym; this is especially true if you’re working, caring for your own family and taking care of aging parents. Medical experts, however, recommend we get up to 30 minutes a day of exercise in order to remain fit and healthy.

What’s a caregiver to do?

Here are some steps you can take to work fitness into your everyday routine in ways you may never have considered before:

  • Turn your chores into a fitness routine. When you’re vacuuming do it with more vigor.Exercise Programs
  • Picking up the newspaper from the curb? Work in a five minute walk.
  • Invest in an exercise bike or treadmill and walk on it or ride it when you’re talking on the phone.
  • If you’re cooking dinner, do some “counter push-ups” while the food is cooking. How? Stand arm’s length from the counter, stand on your tip toes and do some push-ups by pushing away from the counter.
  • Lift dumbbells. If you don’t have dumbbells, lift jugs of milk or canned goods.
  • If you’re waiting at the bus stop for the children, take a walk until the bus arrives.
  • When you grocery shop, park far away from the store and get in some additional steps.
  • Rather than taking an hour lunch break, take 30 minutes to eat your lunch and then take a 30 minute walk.
  • If you have a break during the day, climb some stairs.
  • Waiting in line? Do some “toe-ups” by standing on your tip toes and stretching your calves. Squeeze your glutes.
  • If you’re watching television use commercials for a short burst of a workout. Get up and walk around the house or march in place during commercials.
  • If you’re sitting on the couch, do some leg lifts.

You may not be able to devote a full 30 minutes at a time to a workout routine, but most every caregiver can find a way to work out on short, five to ten minute bursts! Taking care of yourself will give you the energy you need to care for your family.

 

 

The Health Benefits Of Yoga

Caregivers might find themselves drawn to yoga for the simple, mindful movements and its relaxation benefits. At its most basic level, yoga is a series of stretching poses with the purpose of cleansing both mind and body of toxins and toxic thoughts. Yoga is typically practiced in a darkened room, with soothing music and an instructor who will lead participants through the various movements. Different poses address different muscles and joints and can work out kinks and help relieve stress.

Another benefit of yoga, and one that is important as we age, is it helps with balance issues and also helps to improve balance through some of the poses and the movements involved. Because a yoga session is thought to “massage your joints, muscles and brain” it is also thought to help move any toxins from your organs.

There are many levels of yoga, from beginner to advanced to yoga practiced in rooms that are heated to more than 100 degrees (this is said to aid in the detoxification process). Here are some of the other benefits of yoga:

  • It helps increase your breath control.Health Benefit of Yoga
  • It enhances your endurance.
  • It enhances your balance; this is crucial as we age because trip and fall accidents are the main cause of emergency room visits for individuals over the age of 65.
  • Yoga raises one’s awareness of his or her own body and this might help an individual notice any slight changes in health.
  • It increases flexibility.
  • Your energy levels may soar and this is a benefit for caregivers who may be juggling their own family demands, working full time and caring for aging relatives.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Weight control might be a byproduct of practicing yoga.
  • Yoga might help stabilize blood pressure, regulate metabolism, enhance digestion and improve your blood circulation.

Yoga is a practice that can be enjoyed by individuals of almost any age as there are yoga classes for seniors that are aimed at increasing flexibility and balance as much as practicing the various poses. As with any exercise program, check with your doctor before you begin just to make sure you’re healthy enough for exercise. You may find that if you’ve been sedentary, a beginning yoga class might offer you an easier way to get back into physical activity without much stress and strain on your joints.

A benefit a caregiver will surely reap is the opportunity to be mindful, exercise and concentrate on taking care of themselves during the yoga session.

 

Exercise Programs For Those With Limited Mobility

The benefits of exercise cannot be stressed highly enough. As obesity increases in the United States, we know that it can lead to injury and myriad other illnesses. If you’ve been sedentary and are now looking to start an exercise routine, you will want to check with your doctor first for help and advice. You may find that he will recommend an exercise program for those with limited mobility and this is especially true if you haven’t exercised for a long period of time or if you are suffering other health issues that don’t allow you to be as mobile as you’d like.

There coExercise Programsuld be many reasons you have limited mobility and they could range from an existing disability, a breathing condition, diabetes, arthritis, being severely overweight or recovering from an injury.

Those dealing with mobility issues may also find themselves dealing with depression and anxiety. Oftentimes, beginning any kind of exercise routine can help enhance self-esteem, reduce anxiety and improve a persons overall outlook on life in general. There are challenges that come with having limited mobility, but there are also creative ways to overcome and find ways to exercise.

What can you do if you want to exercise, but have limited mobility? Here are a few options to consider:

  • Exercising in the water is a great way to increase your cardiovascular strength. Swimming also makes it easier to exercise because of the natural buoyancy the water provides your body.
  • Increasing your range of motion with flexibility exercises such as yoga or stretching can help you regain flexibility.
  • Lifting light weights and undertaking strength training exercises can help build muscle strength and improve balance. If you have limited mobility in your upper body, you may want to focus on your leg strength. For those with limited mobility in their legs, working on strengthening exercises for the upper body are ideal.

Before you start exercising, ask your doctor for advice on the type of exercises to try, how often you should exercise, if there are activities you should avoid and whether any of the medication you’re taking will impact your workout.

Here are tips for starting a routine:

  1. Take it slow and build up your activity level as your endurance increases.
  2. Work exercise into your daily routines. If it becomes a habit that you work out at a specific time of day, it will be easier to stick with it.
  3. Don’t give up if you don’t think you’re seeing results. It can take a while for the results to be visible.

Exercises to consider for those with limited mobility include:

  • Chair workouts. If you can’t get up and move around you can still move your upper body! Do some “chair dancing” exercises by raising your arms and lifting your legs. Turn on some music to make it more enjoyable.
  • If you have a chair with wheels and a non-carpeted area in the home, use your legs to move around the room to help build endurance.
  • Sit on a balance ball. These are ideal for increasing stability and can also help you work out by moving your arms, wiggling your hips, making figure eights with your waist all while increasing your balance.
  • Turn on some music and clean the house! Vacuuming and bending and stretching to dust your furniture is also a great way move and stretch. If you move in time with the music you may also amp up your cardio!

The actual point of any exercise program is to simply get moving! Even if it’s only one area of your body, moving it will help you feel better, raise your spirits and may lead to even more healthful activities!

Why Tai Chi Is Good For You!

Tai Chi is a Chinese practice and tradition that was originally developed for self-defense but evolved into a graceful exercise that can help reduce stress & anxiety and helps to increase flexibility and balance.

Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints which makes it generally safe for all ages and levels of fitness. It may be especially suitable for older adults who can’t (or may not) otherwise exercise. It also requires no special equipment and can be done inside or out. As with any exercise, it’s always a good practice to check with your physician before starting any routine. Continue reading

Walking Is Ideal For Physical And Mental Health

Getting up off of the couch and moving is a way to not only combat obesity, but it can help you as you age by keeping your physical and mental being in balance. Chances are, your doctor has stressed the importance of getting up and moving. You have likely heard the reports that people who sit for long periods of time are more likely to die at an earlier age than those who are more physically active.

Walking is an exercise that virtually anyone can undertake as a way to get and/or stay healthy. In addition to helping your cardiovascular system, walking may prevent cancer and diabetes and help strengthen your bones. Because falls are so prevalent in individuals over the age of 65, being active and in shape may help prevent a fall as you age.

Did you know, though, that walking can also help ward off dementia? Physicians believe that consistent cardio exercise – like walking or even swimming – can help prevent your brain from shrinking as you age. A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh showed that individuals who walked six to nine miles a week had more brain volume after nine years in the study than did those who were not as active. Consider that a walk a day can reverse age-related brain shrinkage and you can see the benefit in slipping on your sneakers and getting out there!

If you’ve been sedentary, here are some steps you will want to consider before you start a walking routine:

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. They should fit well and have stable soles.
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat when you walk to prevent sunburn.
  • Invest in a pedometer so you can track how long you’re walking and challenge yourself to walk a few more steps each day.
  • Don’t start a walking or other exercise routine until you’ve checked with your doctor. He may advise starting out slowly (getting a few thousand steps a day) and working your way up to the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

What’s the best way to start a walking workout?

  1. Plan to walk at the coolest parts of the day – early morning or at dusk.
  2. Walk in well-lit areas and stay on sidewalks and try to avoid uneven terrain
  3. Use walking sticks to not only improve balance but to work your upper body as well
  4. Start out with a five to ten minute walk – this is especially important if you’ve been inactive prior to this. Increase your walk time by five to ten minutes every time you go out
  5. Look for ways to incorporate walking into your every day routine – walk to the mailbox, park further away from the grocery store than usual and use those steps to add to your daily total, get up and move around during television commercials, walk up to get your daily cup of coffee.
  6. Change up your routine so you don’t get bored. Walk in a different direction. Walk indoors one day and outdoors the next. Find a walking buddy.
  7. Once you’ve been walking for a week or two increase the intensity by walking up some hills or even by doing “interval” training – walking at a faster pace for a minute (to the point of being almost breathless) then slow back to your usual pace.

Make today the day that you commit to being more active; it just may help you stave off dementia as well as helping improve your all around health.

Ten Steps You Can Take Right Now To Extend Your Life

There are so many steps that we can take from an  early age to help extend our lives and to simply make our Golden Years more enjoyable because we could be enjoying them with better health. Aging in place, and aging gracefully includes making good choices in our earlier years that should continue as we grow older.

 

Here are some steps you can take today to help extend your life and good health:

  1. Check your cholesterol. When you go to your doctor for an annual physical and he checks your heart and blood pressure, ask him to test your cholesterol. In order to know whether you’re eating healthfully or whether you’re on the road to a potential heart issue, knowing your cholesterol and keeping it in check is crucial.
  2. Your doctor should also be monitoring your blood levels and checking for diabetes. It’s estimated that Type 2 diabetes will increase from 30 million to close to 50 million by 2030 – this means that one of every four Baby Boomers could be dealing with diabetes.
  3. Eat a healthy diet. It’s sometimes easy to rely on processed food or drive-thru foods but eating a healthful diet full of fruits, vegetables, low fat foods and limiting your intake of red meats lead to a healthier life. Look at the Mediterranean diet as a healthful way of eating; it is full of grains, vegetables, chicken, fish, fruits and limits red meat intake.
  4. Don’t mix alcohol with prescription drugs. Always follow the labels on the medications that you take and limit alcohol intake as it could interfere with the medicine’s effectiveness.
  5. Pay attention to the warning signs of a heart attack. Chest pains aren’t the only red flag warning sign of a heart attack. In women, a heart attack can feel like indigestion, pain between the shoulder blades or extreme fatigue. Diabetics sometime note they have lower back pain when they’re suffering a heart attack.
  6. Watch your weight. Obesity leads to myriad other health issues and when you consider that as we age, our metabolism slows down as does our activity which means we need fewer calories. Staying active as we age is beneficial to also helping keep our balance and preventing slip and fall accidents.
  7. Don’t lose sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Boomers rarely get enough sleep (eight hours is ideal). Your body needs sleep to heal itself from the rigors of the day. If you’re not sleeping well, talk with your doctor to uncover the root cause.
  8. Stay active. You may not be able to get up and jog five miles a day, but you can certainly get some muscle strengthening activities by simply taking a daily walk or a gentle yoga class. Consider too that walking three times a week can increase your brain activity and may ward off dementia. It also keeps your heart healthy, can lead to weight loss and will also decrease your blood pressure.
  9. Talk to someone if you’re dealing with a lot of stress. Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders can lead to depression which in turn leads to a whole host of other potential illnesses. Ask for help. Talk to a doctor or a family member. Stress can impact caregivers and if you’re in a care giving situation you may need to take a step back and ask for help from others.
  10. Stop smoking and drinking to excess. The risks of smoking are well noted as are the risks of drinking too much alcohol. Stopping smoking is a great decision to make at any age. Drinking in moderation – as long as it doesn’t impact any of the medications you’re taking – may not be bad for your health but you should ask your doctor if you’re not certain.

These may all be common sense steps to take, but as we age and if we want to continue aging in place and being independent, we need to take care of ourselves now so that we can age gracefully and live independently.

Getting Fit When You’re Over Fifty

It’s true that as we age we slow down and don’t get as much exercise as we did when we were younger. Unless a medical professional advises against certain exercise, there is no reason we can’t still remain active, In fact, medical professionals advise that staying fit not only helps us as we age by keeping us more limber and our bones stronger, but staying physically fit may also keep our brains more active and engaged and less prone to Alzheimer’s.

 

Friends out for a walk

Walking is great exercise. (Photo credit: justmakeit)

 

 Here are some tips for staying fit and healthy:

 

  • Don’t let “feeling tired” keep you from exercise. Even a slow-paced walk will invigorate you and create more energy. Moving on a daily basis helps keep our body operating at its peak and can help ward off obesity, diabetes and other ailments that impact us as we age.
  • Consistency counts. Exercising doesn’t have to consume your entire day, but you do need to commit to exercising on a daily basis in order for it to have a positive impact on your health. If you’re not in the habit of exercising regularly, start out slow and plan a short jaunt, but make certain you move quickly enough to get your heart pumping. Plan to walk for at least 30 minutes a day. It’s a low impact, heart healthy exercise that individuals of almost any fitness level can do. Walking lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, can help you lose weight and improve your overall strength. It’s always wise to talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise routine.
  • Fill up on water. Water is great for your skin and helps energize your muscles. You will also want to drink water before, during and after your exercise.
  • Wear the proper gear. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on fitness wear, but you do want to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes when you’re walking. Wear non-constricting clothing and wear a hat if you’re going to be outside walking in the sunshine. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
  • Pay attention to the surfaces on which you’re walking and take note of your balance. As we age, we more easily lose our balance and that can lead to a trip and fall accident. Simply by exercising though we strengthen our core muscles and improve our balance, so make certain when you’re starting a walking routine that you stick to level surfaces.
  • On the days when the weather doesn’t cooperate, spend some time in gentle stretching motions in your home. Stretching gets blood flowing to areas where it may have been restricted and also helps prevent muscle imbalance. Toe touches, stretches above your head and even deep knee bends or leg lifts using a chair for balance are great ways to get your stretching in.

 

Once you’ve committed to a fitness routine, make certain you also commit to a healthy diet. Eat lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and consume at least eight glasses of water a day. Steps you take now to live a healthier lifestyle will go a long way in making your Golden Years more enjoyable!

 

Why Exercise Is Important As You Age

Does your need for exercise diminish as you age? Not at all, health experts say. As a matter of fact, the elderly need to remain active as a way to stay healthy, be able to age in place and prevent their muscles from atrophying because of insufficient activity. Additionally, keeping blood flowing to vital organs and the brain enhance life and health.

Lack of muscle tone and a non-productive active lifestyle can also lead toward depression and inactivity can make your aging relatives more prone to trip and fall accidents.  If you can impress upon your aging relatives the need for activity, they may be able to age in place and with the addition of a home medical alert device, this ability to stay safely at home is further enhanced.

Before beginning any type of exercise routine, you should check with a physician to make certain they’re healthy enough. For even the most sedate of individuals simply getting up and moving around or taking short strolls around the house is better than remaining sedentary. An exercise routine, to be effective, should be strenuous enough to generate blood flow and work the muscles without putting undue strain on the joints. A swim routine, if there is a pool available, is ideal for working out without putting stress on muscles and joints that may be ravaged by arthritis.

One of the main goals of any kind of an exercise program is to provide adequate exercise to maintain muscle mass and a general feeling of well-being. When you consider that getting up and moving around will help improve balance and overall health, simply getting up and walking could help prevent falls and broken bones. Getting into a habit of taking a daily, or even every other day, walk with the seniors in your life is a great bonding activity for the both of you and will also help assure they don’t suffer a fall if they’re out walking alone.

Many senior centers provide workout programs geared specifically to individuals in this age group and these programs are not only a great way to work out in a supportive environment but it is a great way for your senior to get out of the house and socialize.

Working out will enhance your seniors’ appetite, which wanes as they age; don’t forget to stock their homes with heart healthy food choices and fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

Hints & Tips To Senior-Proof A Home

Serious injuries as the result of trips or falls are suffered by one in three adults over the age of 65 and many of these happen in the home. These falls can lead to broken bones and other injuries such as head trauma and even death.

Senior-proofing the home for items such as trip and fall hazards should be a matter of course for your aging relatives if they’d like to continue aging in place. Look for loose or slippery carpets and bathroom hazards. There are other items that need to be addressed as well.

Here are some items to consider if your parents want to continue living independently:

  1. Limit alcohol intake as this can lead to balance issues and cause a fall in addition to other health issues and potentially dangerous interactions with their medications.
  2. Have a full physical: Many falls could be prevented if your relatives have a full medical work up to address any issues that could lead to slip and fall accidents. Diabetes which has inherent poor circulation problems, low blood pressure and ear infections can also throw their balance off and lead to falls.
  3. Clean the medicine cabinet and track all medications. Clear out old prescriptions and outdated medications – over-the-counter and prescriptions. Make certain your relatives are taking the medications as prescribed and in the proper dosages. If the prescriptions are from different doctors, check with one of them or the pharmacist to make certain there is no risk of interaction.
  4. Stay fit and active: If your parents aren’t getting any exercise, they will lose muscle strength and tone and this will make it harder to walk and maintain their balance. The Centers for Disease Control recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week for those aged 65 and older. This means walking at a brisk pace, undertaking some aerobic activity such as swimming or a senior exercise class or bicycling. If your aging parent has health conditions that make it impossible to do this, ask a physical therapist to recommend some stretching exercises to help keep them in shape.
  5. Get their eyes checked: An annual eye exam is a must and eyeglass adjustments if necessary. An eye exam will catch any vision issues and proper eyeglass prescriptions will help to prevent falls if they have clear vision.
  6. Eat healthy meals: Cooking may become less of a priority as you age but getting adequate nutrients and vitamins are essential to good health. Additionally, ask whether they should be taking any supplements to address bone health issues or other vitamin deficiencies.
  7. Use a cane or walker: If your aging relatives are suffering from balance issues have them fitted for a cane or a walker. This will help them be mobile, but take care that they purchase a cane that is specifically suited to their height as one that is too short or too tall can lead to a trip or fall.

Even with all of the above steps implemented, you may still want to take it one step further and sign your parents up for a home medical alert system. With these devices, your parents will wear a medical emergency alert pendant; if they suffer a fall or other health emergency, all they need to do is push the button, a call is made to the home and if no answer is received, emergency medical personnel are dispatched.