How To Survive Old Age (Your Own or Someone You Love)

Posts made in April, 2012

Better Bodies • Better Brains

Posted by on Apr 29, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

New Brain Research

Last week I was walking up my local mountain, feeling quite virtuous for having decided to strike out before all the ice had melted from the road that leads to the top, when I was passed on one of the extras steep bits by what I perceived as an “old woman”  She was slim, with a grey pony tail and a lot of character in her face.  The really scary part was that she did not seem to be breathing hard at all as she lightly jogged past me and around the bend on her way to the peak. 

Some of the self congratulations began to fade from my mind as I formed a new goal.  I wanted to be like that “old’ woman, and soon!  Move it or loose it.  How many times have you heard or said that and then headed to the refrigerator for a snack because you were ready to start your exercise program, but later, tomorrow maybe, just not right now? 

If you are looking for inspiration to start your fitness program, you don’t have to move to New Hampshire, where many older adults routinely climb the “4,00 footers”  our collection of 48 mountains that soar above our hills and valleys.  Building a better body is good, but for inspiration, I feel that building a better mind is better.

A new study by Canadian researchers  shows that an exercise program featuring resistance training improves the cognitive functioning of older women, and improves it by a good and noticeable margin. Researchers from Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia followed 86 senior women with mild cognitive impairment for a six month study.  The study, which was published in the April 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, in case you want to look it up.

The women, between the ages of 65 and 75, were divided into two groups, one performed resistance training exercises-(weight training) and the other did aerobic exercise,.  The groups exercised twice a week for six months in sessions that lasted about an hour.    Both of these groups were tested regularly to assess  the brain functions needed for independent living— paying attention, memory, problem solving and executive decision making.  They were also analyzed for brain brain plasticity with a functional MRI. 

The results showed big improvement in decision making, memory and brain plasticity in the group performing weight training exercise.  These are the very things that begin to decline in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease!  The aerobic training group did not show these results.  Now I am sure they got some other benefits from the aerobic exercise, but this study was focused on brain improvement. 

The results were so positive that the research team made a video and posted it on u-tube.  Go to :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG6sJm2d4oc to see it and begin your new weight training program. 
“Exercise is attractive as a prevention strategy for dementia as it is universally accessible and cost-effective,” said Liu-Ambrose, the lead researcher. “By developing this YouTube video we can help translate our findings directly to the senior population and fitness instructors who are working with them.”

My new plan is to climb that local mountain five times a week and do it as fast as I can, building up to a jogging pace.  Carrying my medium sized frame up a mountain is sure to qualify as weight training, but just to be sure, I plan on carrying my small free weights.  Maybe when it gets easy, I’ll add a backpack.  My doctor friends approve this plan and have pointed out I will also get a boost to my circulation, heart activity and bone strength along the way.  Maybe I will snowshoe it this winter!

I suggest you start your weight training program today, then figure out a way to make it fun.  Taking along friends, or making new ones is a good idea too, for mutual inspiration.  Think where you might end up with all the new brain cells popping around in your head!

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