Many seniors these days are hearing about how important exercise is to their lives. It’s easy for an older person to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of adding hours of extra movement into their daily schedule. The thing is, a lot of exercise is not necessarily better. In fact, a calculated amount of exercise can do a lot of good for the aging brain, and it’s probably less than you think!
The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center recruited more than 100 sedentary adults, aged 65 and up, who were healthy and showed no symptoms of dementia. Participants were divided into three groups; one exercised for 75 minutes per week, another for 150 minutes, and the third for 225 minutes per week. The weekly exercise consisted of brisk treadmill walks for 25-60 minutes.
Obviously, those seniors doing the most exercise were the fittest. All involved were able to think better, but those who exercised for 75 minutes per week were just as healthy as those who exercised for 225 minutes.
Researchers were able to correlate blood hormone levels from aerobic fitness, and identify positive consequences on memory function due to exercise. Aerobic exercise improves the ability of the heart to pump blood to vital organs, such as the brain, and improves the circulation of blood within the brain itself. Attentiveness rises while exercising, and seniors participating in the study were more aware of everything, from specific conversations near them to what was going on around them in general.
Exercise can lower the risk of depression, which is commonly associated with memory and cognitive decline. Through exercise, a senior’s “executive function” is improved, the management of thought processes such as working memory, reasoning, mental flexibility, problem solving, planning and implementation. The more seniors exercise the better their physical endurance and stamina. The heart and lungs are positively affected, as are the joints and muscles.
It’s important to know how exercise benefits the brain. It’s not an intense exercise regimen that helps the brain stave off dementia. It’s the 30 minutes a day, three times a week walking regimen that maximizes brain function. As long as older people move enough to increase their peak “V02,” the maximum volume of oxygen that a person can use, it will cause memory and thinking to improve.
Moving an older person from their chair in front of the TV can result in a myriad of advantages. Seniors can get out there, and be active, just like those young “whippersnappers.”
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