Need More Reasons to Exercise?

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.

Dealing with Fear

Fear is an ever-present emotion lurking in the recesses of all of our minds.  When it comes to the forefront it can be overpowering and paralyzing.  There are varying degrees, some subtle, some fleeting, some constant.  Regardless of the catalyst, it can be such a powerful force that it can alter our lives.  But we have the power to retake control.

Bo Forbes, a psychologist, yoga teacher, and yoga therapist, whose workshops I have attended, recently wrote:

. . .fear is universal and we can’t expect to get rid of it.   What then do we do with it since it causes so much physical and emotional distress? How can we make it work for us rather than against us?

. . .we are most vulnerable to fear and disintegration during life transitions . .. The frightening thing about these times is uncertainty: We’re neither the person we used to be, nor the one we’re about to become. The lack of definition is challenging, but there’s more to it: In the hugely unstructured space of transitions, we catch a glimpse of the person we could be. The magnitude of that potential is scary. What if we don’t get there? What if we do?

During transitions, we contend with cultural and personal beliefs about our limitations and responsibilities; beliefs which often keep us from moving forward.

Unaddressed fear becomes toxic; it erodes our mind, body, and spirit. When we try to avoid our fear, we feed it.

To endure uncertainty [means to] live in spaces that can feel frightening, barren, or lacking in structure. How willing are we to go through the death of old structures in our lives? How ready are we to tolerate lack of definition? The more willing and ready we are, the more we can use fear as an impetus for growth.”

You can find more of her essay “Facing Uncertainties and Transitioning Through Them” in the online magazine “Fear.less”.  I encourage you to check it out.  Click on the link to “Archives” and browse.  You will see some familiar names among the contributors.  One of the blogs I particularly liked is titled “Remember Your Good Parts”.  Here is an excerpt:

“We’re anxious, fearful, insecure people. These parts have a lot of pull over us and even when we fight against our own wretchedness and try to improve, we still lose. We begin to believe that no matter how much we do, we just can’t change.

What if instead of exhausting ourselves with doubt, we listened to the parts of us that encourage? You know the ones. We forget them because it takes quiet and safety for them to come out, and bullying ourselves doesn’t make us feel safe.

But these parts do (very much) exist. And when they are heard and heeded, they’re powerful.”

All of this is relevant any time you feel the need for change in your life.  Think about the changes you’d like to make now – for example, making time for yourself, developing some positive habits or overcoming some negative ones.  Maybe these don’t seem that important, but you may find that one of the barriers to making these changes is really fear.  Overcoming fear in these areas can inspire you to move through it when it arises in other areas of your life.  So it’s worth experimenting.   Don’t wait for “the right” time.  All you really have is this moment, so there is no better time than right now!  You can do it!