There have been several recent studies linking physical exercise to reduced risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. For this week’s tip, here are links to just a few articles which give summaries of these studies.
NY Times – Daily Activity Linked toLower Alzheimer’s Risk
USAToday – Any Kind of Physical Activity Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk
Senior Fitness: Muscle Strength May Stave Off Alzheimer’s And Other Health Issues
Regular Exercise and Resistance Training Are Good for the Brain
Being Physically Active May Protect the Brain from Alzheimer’s Disease
Notice that it is overall physical activity that is beneficial. Certain activities, such as strength training, seem to have specific benefits, but in general just moving is the best thing you can do to prevent mental decline.
How often have you heard someone say, “Now that I’ve hit _____ (age – fill in the blank) everything seems to be falling apart!” In my opinion, maintaining muscle tone and movement with as much of your body as possible is the most important thing you can do to stave off that “falling apart” feeling. It’s not inevitable and you don’t have to give in to it. I see many elderly people every day who are managing to move pretty well regardless of their age. Granted, some of it is good genes, but I am still a firm believer that there is a level of movement that is possible and appropriate for almost every body. And it is never too late to start. Or to improve. As I always say, starting is the hard part. Once you start there is no way to go but forward. My mantra is this: move while you can move because you never know when something might change to prevent you from moving the way you would like.
You don’t need any particular skill or ability, but you do need patience. When you start, take baby steps. It may have been some time since you’ve done any moving at all. Perhaps you are recovering from an illness or injury. Or maybe you’re trying to overcome the debilitating effects of a chronic condition. As you get older, it takes more time to recover. You may not ever get back to the way you were before you stopped. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. If you can move at all, then there is a level from which you can begin and a goal that you can reach. Just be gentle with yourself and accept where you are at right now. You may need to actively repeat that acceptance process each day. And some days will be better than others. Accept that, too. After all, fighting it won’t make it better. It can be frustrating, but if you keep trying, you will improve.
And when you have a good day, celebrate! Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a reward. Mark the day on your calendar so next time you’re feeling down you can remember your accomplishments.
Just as a reminder: both Yoga and Pilates focus on strength and flexibility training as well as mindful movement. So either of these disciplines can be a great way to add more movement to your life.