By Lauryn Oleson,health enews, a news service from Advocate Health Care
As the human brain ages, cognition levels decline and our thinking skills begin to slow down. Chances are, if you’re an adult experiencing signs of forgetfulness or mental lethargy, you’re anxious about developing common age-related diseases like dementia, which rakes in 10 million new diagnoses every year, according to the World Health Organization.
Recent studies, however, found that there are steps you can take to improve thinking skills, and possibly memory skills, as you age.
This year, University of Miami researchers studied a group of more than 11,000 seniors with either healthy or mildly impaired cognitive function. They found that participants who exercised regularly over time showed significant increase in thinking skills.
In the study, most participants found aerobic exercises to do the trick. Other activities like strength training and mind-body exercises were also effective. Going for brisk walks, joining water aerobics classes or doing tai chi or yoga are all great ways to get moving.
“As the cardiovascular system is regularly conditioned,” he says, “the blood flow to the brain is dramatically and positively affected. The brain utilizes about 20 percent of the circulating oxygen, so any decline in the circulatory function hits the brain and cognition pretty hard.”
Dr. Vales also adds that interacting with other people and even just the process of getting from point A to point B challenges seniors and helps preserve brain function.
The benefits of exercise are clear – staying active as you age is crucial to living a healthy life. Here are some tips on building an active lifestyle, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Find a routine. Getting started can be difficult after a long break from exercise. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you. Then, plan some of the activities you will do during the week ahead of time. This will help keep you accountable.
- Stick to it. In the University of Miami study, it took 52 hours of activity over a six month period for the positive effects of exercise to kick in. While that may seem like a lot, not it’s only about two hours per week.
- Find meaning. Sticking to a routine can become tedious after a while. Ask yourself why you exercise and keep your focus on overall health. Not only will your physical fitness improve, but you’ll also feel more confident and optimistic.
- Get involved. A great way to get moving is to be involved in your community. Find out if your local gym offers any weekly walking groups or exercise classes. Meeting new people and being part of a group can keep you motivated in the long run.
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