Keeping Aging Bodies Fit Helps Aging Brains
When most of us think of exercise, we think of healthy heart rates, flexed muscles, and sweat. But one thing that rarely comes to mind… is the mind itself. Believe it or not, one of the biggest benefits to regular exercise is a stronger, healthier brain. That’s valuable news for seniors. And it’s especially valuable news for seniors at risk for dementia and cognitive decline. Keeping Aging Bodies Fit Helps Aging Brains
Larry Meigs, President and CEO of Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services, agrees: “As home care providers, we can’t say enough about the benefits of exercise. Even light exercise can make a major difference in your overall quality of life. And that counts just as much for your mental well-being as it does for your physical fitness.” Keeping Aging Bodies Fit Helps Aging Brains
Studies Show Exercise Positive for Seniors
Science is on your side when it comes to exercise, aging, and the mind. Study after study has shown that seniors who keep active show major mental benefits.
For instance, in 2012, a team of researchers at Canada’s University of British Columbia studied the effects of exercise on seniors’ brain health. The team focused on women who were showing signs of mental aging. The study found that light resistance training actually increased the brain performance of women who participated. Keeping Aging Bodies Fit Helps Aging Brains
Meanwhile, a study from 2006 by the University of Illinois shows that exercise literally grows your brain. The study took inactive seniors and put them through a six-month aerobic exercise regimen. The participants’ brains were measured before and after this period. Researchers found that both gray matter and white matter increased in seniors who exercised.
And just this past August, researchers at the University of Maryland showed how quickly exercise (or lack of exercise) can have an effect on the brain. In this study, the researchers had physically fit seniors stop exercising for a short period. After only ten days of inactivity, the researchers found that blood flow to key regions of the brain had fallen significantly.
While the science might be complex, the verdict is simple: a healthier body goes hand in hand with a healthier brain.
How Caregivers Can Keep Seniors Active
The benefits of physical activity in seniors is one thing. But motivating yourself or an aging loved one to exercise? That can be a challenge.
But it’s not as big of a challenge as you may think. At Visiting Angels, our living assistance providers work with seniors and their families on how best to get seniors active. We’ve found that there are a number of ways to get seniors moving and promote healthier lifestyles.
- Train for Life, Not a Marathon. Seniors don’t need Olympic-level training to maintain healthy brains. In fact, light exercise is often enough to increase blood flow, boost brain function, and reduce stressors than contribute to cognitive decline. Think walking, not weights, and hit the garden, not the gym.
- Work Your Way Up. Too much, too fast is the quickest, easiest way to turn seniors off of exercise. Start small and start manageable. For some seniors, a one-minute walk is a starting point — and that’s okay. Keep at it, and soon enough one minute turns into two, and you’re on your way.
- Make Activity Fun. The more enjoyable physical activity is the more likely seniors are to continue with it. So find activities that you or your loved one can enjoy and think of ways to make them more fun. Brainstorm hobbies, like bird-watching, where you can include physical activity without making it seem like exercise with a capital “E.”
The care professionals at Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services have been helping seniors live healthier, happier lives for almost twenty years. To learn more about our services or to find care for a loved one, visit us at VisitingAngels.com.
Note: Caregivers from Visiting Angels do not provide medical care, lead exercise programs nor are they senior trainers. Before your loved one begins an exercise program they should check with their doctor. If you have questions about your loved one’s health, please consult their primary health care provider.
About the Author
Visiting Angels is a national, private duty network of senior care agencies. We are proud to be the nation’s leading provider of non-medical at home care services. With our elder care services, seniors can remain independent and live safely at home. Our senior care services include Social Care, Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, End of Life Care, Companion Care, Private Duty Care, care to prevent hospital readmission, and so much more.
Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.View All Articles