One of the best ways to improve your health and wellbeing is physical exercise. For those who think it's too late to start, it's not! If you or a loved one needs to increase their activity, there is a solid silver lining regarding the impact it can have on your life, especially those entering the golden years.
According to John J. Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, there is overwhelming evidence that exercise produces large cognitive gains and helps fight dementia. Research has shown that exercise helps protect your brain by:
o Improving and increasing blood flow to your brain
o Increasing production of nerve-protecting compounds
o Improving development and survival of neurons
o Altering the way damaging proteins reside inside your brain, which appears to slow the development of Alzheimer's disease.
A 2010 study on primates revealed that regular exercise helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys. This is a benefit the researchers believed would hold true for people as well. More recently, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta found that a mere 20-minute strength training session could improve long-term memory in the participants.
A program that has gained much attention is the Healthways Silver Sneakers Fitness program, an insurance benefit included in more than 65 Medicare health plans for adults around the age of 65 or older. Through Silver Sneakers, health plans and group retirement plans provide a gym membership to their insured, usually at no additional cost. Silver&Fit is also a similar program that is solely through Kaiser Permanente.
Shellie Schulze, Silver Sneakers instructor at Studio Fit 515 says, “You can't change the passing of time, but you can improve your body!” Shellie became a personal trainer at the age of 37, and has been training for 15 years. She became interested in working with the senior demographic because of their wit, experience and presence they bring to the room. She also says that as she ages, she sympathizes with what her clients are feeling as well.
Shellie strives to make her Silver Sneakers classes a safe, fun and social environment, with a joyful camaraderie. Some of the benefits individuals gain from attending the classes include:
o Increasing flexibility and mobility
o Building core stability and strength
o Lessening joint pain
o Regaining balance
o Reestablishing confidence to feel more capable to complete daily life tasks
o Living a more active lifestyle
The importance of strength training is vital to every age, but older adults may have more modifications than other age groups due to injuries, and loss of bone and muscle mass density. Shellie incorporates the use of resistance bands that build muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion while fighting bone loss and easing the symptoms of arthritis pain. Core work is also vital as it supports our stability and balance as well as improves posture.
The only way to test how you will benefit from exercise is to make it a routine part of your lifestyle. To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). For more information about how you can get more active, or to hear more about the Silver Sneakers or Silver&Fit program, call the Powerhouse Gym & Studio Fit 515 at 284-4664.
Cat Senet lives in Kenwood and is Director of Fitness at the Powerhouse Gym and Studio in Santa Rosa.