Vital Element of Brain Health: Regular Exercise

In honor of November being Alzheimer’s Awareness month, HealthyReader will be posting four articles regarding vital elements for brain health recommended to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.  This is the first in the series: start boosting your brain cells today and stay sharper longer.

Regular Exercise

It should come as no surprise that a regular, yet varied, exercise routine will be the vital element named first in our series.  Being active is the “easiest” way to put the odds in your favor health wise.  Let’s review the “to do” list to consider when developing your personal routine.

  • Start small, especially if you’re fairly inactive now.  Little things count, like taking the stairs or parking as far as you can from the door at work or the grocery store.  Wear a pedometer and work your way up to 10,000 steps.
  • For your over all plan, work towards the goal of a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times a week.  It’s important to get to your target heart rate and maintain it for this timeframe. A variety of exercises, activities, and chores can accomplish this.  (Yes, vacuuming can count!)
  • Incorporate weight and resistance training.  Especially for those over 65, as 2-3 sessions a week of this type exercise can cut your Alzheimer’s or dementia risk in half.  Purchasing hand weights is not necessary.  Try lifting canned goods, paint cans or half or whole gallon milk cartons filled with varying levels of water to adjust weight. Be creative! This cannot be an excuse to avoid getting started.
  • The risk of falling increases as you age so it’s important to off-set that with exercises that help you increase or maintain your balance and coordination.  Yoga is a low intensity option and can help build strength too. Balance disks or balance balls can be mixed into your routine instead for a greater challenge.

You may find the hardest challenge is making this exercise routine a habit.  Find a fitness buddy;  you won’t want to let them down by not keeping your date. Put that appointment in your calendar.  Set realistic goals and reward yourself often when they’re achieved.  The first 21 days are critical in getting this habit to stick. You can do it!

Please be sure to visit with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.