Aerobics May Improve Memory

Aerobics May Improve MemoryAerobics May Improve Memory.
I became interested in exercise and memory several years ago when my older students began to tell me that their memories seemed to improve after they took my class.
I was teaching mostly dance-exercise in those days. I started with simple steps and built up to a pretty complex routine.
There has to be a connection I thought, between the physical movement, making your brain learn this routine, and improved memory.
I’m no scientist but I was curious. So I started to break it down.
What I was having people do is learn short phrases of movement and then link them together. The cardio dance routine required them to move forward and back, side to side, remember specific steps; and stay in rhythm.
This was a real challenge for many of my students who had never done anything like this before. As they got more proficient, the class became a social gathering; because of this shared experience.
My students felt energized afterwards, not exhausted. They told me that besides getting a good body workout they were getting a memory workout as well. They said they could actually remember things better.
I wondered if there was science to support our anecdotal experience.
I contacted a couple of local Alzheimer’s specialists (there was no internet back then) and they told me – you’re probably right but there weren’t any specific studies on this more than 20 years ago.
Even now the research is not conclusive. But, technology in the last 15 years has allowed science to discover a lot more about the brain.
Vascular memory loss has been linked to heart disease and cardio fitness is a major factor in preventing and managing that issue. Aerobic exercise increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain improving mental function. Cardio fitness has been shown to reduce loss of brain cells in older adults.
A study of 1,449 older adults shows those who in middle age exercised vigorously enough to perspire and breathe hard for 20 to 30 minutes at least twice a week reduced their risk of later developing Alzheimer’s disease by about 60 percent.*
But cardio is just part of the equation.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that certain types of dance, particularly with routines to learn and remember, may help prevent age-onset memory loss and diseases like Alzheimer’s. “…. cognitive activity may stave off dementia by increasing a person’s “cognitive reserve.” **
And a study conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says activities that combined mental and social as well as physical stimulation offered the greatest protection against dementia***
Activity is the active word. Be physically active, mentally active and socially active, preferably all at once. Taking a Cardio Dance class or getting together with friends to do a Cardio Dance DVD is a good place to start. And to this day, when I start my cardio dance class I say,
“It’s time to workout our hearts and minds!”

*Rovio, Suvi; Kareholt, Ingemar; Helkala, Eeva-Liisa; Viitanen, Matti; Winblad, Bengt; Tuomilehto, Jaakko; Soininen, Hilkka; Nissinen, Aulikki; and Kivipelto, Miia. “Leisure-time physical activity at midlife and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” The Lancet Neurology; published online Oct. 4, 2005.
** Dr Joe Verghese, lead author of study conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, N Engl J Med, 2003; 348:2508-2516.
***Karp, Anita; Paillard-Borg, Stephanie; Wang, Hui-Xin; Silverstein, Merrill; Winblad, Bengt; and Fratiglioni, Laura. “Mental, Physical and Social Components in Common Leisure Activities in Old Age in Relation to Dementia: Findings from the Kungsholmen Project.” Presented at the Alzheimer’s Association 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, Philadelphia, Penn., July 17 – 22, 2004. Abstract published in Neurobiology of Aging, July 2004, Vol. 25, S2: p. S313.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761497/

Compared with the control group, the exercise group significantly improved in verbal fluency (p = 0.048), word list delayed recall (p = 0.038), word list recognition (p = 0.007), and total CERAD-K score (p = 0.037)

  • Metabolic syndrome (MS) is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
  • Aerobic exercise improves cognitive function in elderly people and contributes to the prevention of degenerative neurological disease and brain damage. Dance sport is a form of aerobic exercise that has the additional benefits of stimulating the emotions, promoting social interaction, and exposing subjects to acoustic stimulation and music.
  • In the present study, dance exercise for a 6-month period improved cognitive function in older adults with MS. In particular, positive effects were observed in verbal fluency, word list delayed recall, word list recognition, and the total CERAD-K score.
  • Our data suggest that the implementation of dance exercise programs may be an effective means of prevention and treatment of cognitive disorders.
  • http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075/abstract

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Getting Fit: Find Fabulousity!

Getting Fit: Find Fabulousity!

I was back in my home town recently, where I taught for over 20 years. I missed my ladies so I decided to take some of my former students out for tea and dessert.

I thought for a minute the dessert part was a bad idea when a couple of them wouldn’t eat a piece of cake in front of me. But when I dug in, moderately of course, the party got started in earnest.  Ever the moderator, I asked them each to share things that were important in their lives over the past year.

As we went around the circle, they spoke of getting pregnant, daughter’s weddings, losing your job, becoming a gym rat, outliving heart disease, surviving menopause, the joy of grandchildren, and a trip to China.

Maybe because I was their host, the conversation drifted toward how getting fit had changed their lives.

They shared stories about feeling invisible, not sexy, not pretty, having no energy and feeling like a lump. One remembered showing up in my office, tearing her hair out saying my doctor told me I need to do something, I’ve got serious health issues, but I hate to exercise. What do I do?

She said, I told her “I’m going to give you exercise you can look forward to instead of dread.”

Getting Fit: Find Fabulousity!

Most of my work is done with women who haven’t been active in a while. My coaching style is to start people wherever they may be physically and emotionally and get them moving, gently, and pleasantly. If the first experience is pleasant, you’ll want a second and the third and so on. Sustainability is the key to getting fit and staying fit successfully. And that’s what happened with these ladies. But something else remarkable happened too.

They told me getting fit had given them the self confidence to pursue things they would never have dared to try; that the change in their bodies had kindled a change in the way they saw themselves. Instead of feeling invisible they felt fabulous and that Fabulosity had spilled over into the rest of their lives. As much as I would love to take all the credit for this transformation, I think that it boils down to healthy body, healthy mind;

Getting fit was the key that unlocked the door to their potential.
Pretty cool huh?

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Interval Training Workouts

Interval Training WorkoutsInterval Training Workouts Can Spice Up Your Exercise Routine!

If your exercise routine is getting a little stale it’s time for some interval training workouts. These interval training workouts combine periods of lighter exercise with bursts of more intense exercise. You get faster results without knocking yourself out. It’s a great way to jump-start your body again and keep your exercise program fresh.

You can apply the same interval training workouts in the water as well as on land. Here’s a simple interval-walking, jogging or swimming program that will help you get and stay in shape. You will need a watch. (waterproof if used in the water.)

 

Interval Training Workouts

Start walking, or swimming at a slow pace for the first 5 minutes to warm-up, help elevate your core body temperature and increase blood flow to your working muscles.

Then pick up the pace for the next 3 minutes so you start to feel more effort but you can still carry on a conversation comfortably. Then pick up more speed for a 1-minute interval; either faster walking, a light jog or faster swim. Then go back to your comfortable conversation pace for 3 minutes. Alternate between 3 and 1 minute of faster walking or swimming intervals until you are able to sustain about 30-40 minutes 4-5 days a week.

I like to mix up my own interval training workouts alternating the days to get the most variety and training. For instance, do the walking /jogging interval workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then do the swimming interval workout on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Either way, you’ll find yourself enjoying your interval workouts more, increasing your fitness level, and looking forward to your next interval training workout. Have fun and remember you can be Fabulous Forever!

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Arthritis Exercises: Aqua and Land

Arthritis ExercisesHere’s a question about Arthritis Exercises.

Recently, I got a question from a woman who said, “The arthritis in my hips has progressed to the point where I’m really feeling it after my half hour walks. I want to stay mobile as I age. Are there any Arthritis exercises that will help me do this?”

It so happens, my husband also has osteoarthritis in his hips and I have been helping him with a couple of gentle stretches after his treadmill workouts.

Arthritis Exercises: Land

Here are two exercises that flex and extend the hip as well as stretch the front and back of your thigh muscles.

1. Lie on your back with one knee bent with your foot firmly on the floor to help support your back. Wrap a towel around the arch of your other foot. Hold the ends and pull back as you extend the leg towards the ceiling flexing your foot. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Feel the stretch in the back of the thigh (hamstring) and in your hip. Repeat on the other leg.

2. Lie on your side with both knees bent Take your top hand and grab your top foot at the ankle. Tilt your pelvis forward and pull in your abs as your bring the ankle towards your buttocks. Hold 10-30 seconds. Feel the stretch in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and in your hip. Turn over and repeat on the other leg.

Arthritis Exercises: Aqua

Also, if you have access to a pool, light aquatic aerobics or swimming is great. Your buoyancy in the water will help take the pressure off your joints and allow you to work on increasing your range of motion. The warmer the water the better. If the water seems cold to you, invest in a neoprene shorty weight suit. You can find them in a sporting goods store or dive shop. Here’s is a short aqua video that you can use to get started:
Of course always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

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Arm Flab Exercises

Arm Flab ExercisesArm flab exercises.

My inbox is trying to tell me something. I’ve gotten several versions of this question in the past week alone.

Q: I’m starting to feel that flabby arm anxiety again as it gets hotter. I don’t want to face my sleeveless blouses with these 54 old arms a year flabbier than they were last year. Is there anything short of surgery for me to do? Are there any arm flab exercises I can do to firm me up?

A: Sedentary women in general and women at a certain age in particularly are faced with this problem every Summer. And it does get worst, as you get older.

In fact we can lose up to 40% of our muscle cells by the time we hit 70. This is called sarcopenia. When we lose muscle mass what’s left over is flab. Weight resistance exercise can reverse this process and can help you regain some muscle you have lost.

CHECK OUT THIS EXERCISE VIDEO FOR two easy arm flab exercises that target those problem areas in your upper arm so YOU CAN BE FABULOUS FOREVER!

Arm Flab Exercises

Bicep Curl for the Front Arm:

Arm Flab exercises

  • Grab a set up hand weights and stand erect with your feet about shoulder width apart. Weights down at your sides, palms forward. Remaining erect, bending only at your elbows bring the weights up towards you until they reach your shoulders.
  • Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 8-15 reps.
  • Pick a weight that will just barely allow you to complete the final rep in good form.

Triceps Extension for the Back of the Arm:

Arm Flab Exercises

  • You will probably need a lighter weight for this exercise because those muscles are often weaker.
  • Stand erect, weights at your sides, palms in towards your thighs. Remaining erect step forward with one foot and slightly bend the knee. Keeping arms straight, bring both arms behind you just at or above waist height. You should feel the contraction on the back of your arms. Gently lower down to starting position.
  • Repeat 8-15 reps.

Do these arm flab exercises every other day. You should expect some soreness. It’s common when you are building muscle. Doing the exercises every other day gives your muscles a chance to recover and grow. You should see results in about 3-4
weeks.

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Aqua Ballet Lower Body Workout

We are filming for several hours a day starting at the crack of dawn. The weather is cooler but not for long. My only relief has been to strip off my workout clothes, which are almost pasted to my body, jump into a swimsuit and plunge into the pool. After about 45 minutes of laps back and forth (I’m so motivated from watching all these Olympic swimming trials on TV) I get an idea. What if I try some ballet barre exercises in the water, holding on to the side of the pool? Aqua Ballet Barre, not such a bad idea I’m thinking. So I try one of my on land favorites for my legs and butt. I like it! I can really feel it working. It may be even more effective with the water for added resistance.

Try it yourself.

AQUA BALLET WORKOUT:

Stand facing front, heels together, feet turned out. Hold on to the edge of the pool with your right hand. Slowly bend left knee, bringing foot up to right knee forming a triangle. Slowly stretch leg in front of body. Then bring foot back to the knee of the standing leg and return to the starting position. Repeat 4 times to the Front, Side, and Back.

Turn around and repeat exercise on the other leg holding on with your left hand.

Below are Aqua Ballet Workout Photos

Aqua Ballet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fall Prevention-Keep An Eye On Falls

Fall PreventionIs your vision putting you at risk for a deadly fall? The answer may surprise you. Falls are a leading cause of death in older adults.

Do you really want to go out with that kind of a bang? Not being able to distinguish, or maybe just being less likely to notice a hazard that causes a fall, is a problem that sneaks up on you.

 The quality of our vision diminishes with age slowly, and often goes unnoticed; or we may just rationalize symptoms away.

Starting at around 40 the lenses in our eyes become less elastic making it hard to focus up close. We eventually admit it and fix the problem with reading glasses. But that’s just the beginning. By around 50 we may think there’s not enough light in a room, or daylight conditions are immediately too bright when we go outside. In fact our pupils have gotten smaller, and our ability to adjust to changing light has slowed with age. So we require more light indoors, and transitions from dim to bright conditions become more difficult. We don’t usually think of aging eyesight as the cause. It’s easy to shrug off.

As we get older and contrast perception diminishes, making it harder to perceive stairs, curbs and other dangers, we blame shadows or glare. And worsening vision throws off our balance and proprioception (knowing where our bodies are in space). Combine imperfect vision with age related orthopedic issues and we’re set up for a life altering or life-ending event.

Most of the time, the vision problem is easily corrected with a visit to an ophthalmologist and prescription for glasses. And if you do have a more serious issue, it can be detected and treated before vision loss occurs or gets worse. But remember, it sneaks up on you. So get a checkup even if you don’t think you need one.

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Aqua Exercise: A Splash of Fabulous!

Aqua ExerciseAqua Exercise: A Splash of Fabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that  swimming can lower your blood pressure. What’s up with that?

Water babies, that’s us. We’re at home in liquid from pre-birth and we seem to naturally gravitate to it. We love the ocean, the lake the pool, the hot tub, and the bathtub.

What is it about water that means so much to us? It surrounds us, it cradles us, and it supports us. We’re nearly weightless in water. The largest of us can glide with ease and grace, feeling minimal resistance. And, I think it’s those endearing properties of water that make aqua exercise pleasant and effective.

Fitness
Swimming is the most common form of Aqua Exercise. It’s good for all ages. It uses all your major muscle groups, strengthens, tones, and helps build aerobic capacity. There’s almost no impact, so it’s kind to your joints while it gets you in shape.

I swim laps for 30 to 40 minutes four or five times per week. I find it relaxing and stimulating at the same time. Some days it melts my stress and puts me in a meditative state. Other days I do some of my best thinking during my swim workout. In any case, I always get out of the water with that energized good-tired feeling. Mornings are my favorite time to swim. But I’ll take a swim any time I can fit it in. I mostly swim outside so, as pretty as dusk is; I’m usually done before that, because mosquitoes love me.

If you’re a beginner, start slowly with a few minutes a day. Stay in your comfort zone and build up. I can swim for an hour or so now, when my body’s in the mood. But it took me over a year to get that conditioned, and I had a head start as a fitness professional. Take your time and keep it fun.

Aqua Exercise

Can’t swim? No worries. There are classes at the local rec. centers everywhere. There’s aqua cardio, aqua strength, aqua stretch, just about aqua everything. It’s done in about four feet of water so there’s no need to swim. You can get a great workout. It’s no-to-low impact, so it’s easy on your joints. And, if you have access to a pool or calm water, now you can stream a workout on to your tablet, prop it on a chair and exercise your brains out.

There’s some cool equipment to use in the water, too; aqua dumbbells, paddle gloves, jogging vests. Obviously if you’re going deep water running you’ll need one of those deep water jogging vests. But otherwise, you don’t need that stuff to get started. Many aqua cardio classes don’t use any equipment.

Here is an Aqua exercise you might try for cardio:

And, you can do Aqua Strength exercises using aqua dumbbells or a couple of empty plastic water bottles filled with air for resistance. Here’s a video with a few Aqua Strength exercises:

PT and Rehab
Immersion in water was used for healing by ancient civilizations more than 3,000 years ago.

They were on to something, though they probably didn’t know quite what. Immersion in water provides a supportive, low impact, low resistance environment for modern, medically based, physical therapy and injury rehab. A doctor usually prescribes this type of exercise.

Aging Fit
Someone really smart, and probably pretty old, once said: “Aging is not for the faint of heart.” Can I say I can relate to that without giving away my age? Guess not.

Luckily water is also a great medium for vintage bodies that simply can’t take the impact of other types of exercise, at least not every day.

Even if you’re pretty active getting older can make it hard to do land-based exercise on a regular basis. And water is fun. You don’t know you’re exercising until you get out and your body tells you “Oh, that was a workout.”

As our health-conscious population lives longer and longer, I think aqua, with it’s ability to surround and support our aging bodies while we keep them operational, is the wave of the future. Get those creaky bodies in the water. Try it, you’ll like it.

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Osteoporosis: What Does Buying A Purse Have To Do With It?

We all have a lot to lose if we take a serious fall. Assuming we survive, the effects can be life altering. And if you have osteoporosis, what would have been a minor slip and fall for others, could have devastating consequences for you. Here’s a fall prevention video that should be of interest to anyone interested in staying upright.

Osteoporosis Fall Prevention Video

There’s a story that prompted me to post this video and write this article. Here it is.

OsteoporosisI have a friend who had been eyeballing this cute little red purse for a couple of months.  She didn’t need it but she wanted it and sort of became obsessed with it.

She’d visit it online and wave to it in the store. But, there’s no way she was going to buy that purse because wanting it that bad made her feel a little stupid.

Well, the darn thing went on sale the other day at 40-percent off and another 10-percent off with her store card. Now, of course, she had to have that red bag.

Apparently, so did every other woman in the United States. Because, she had it in her online shopping cart and by the time she got her credit card out, it was no longer available. It had been snatched right out of her cart.

She was furious. She felt violated. “How dare they sell MY red purse?”

She called the company.  They apologized and looked for one in their inventory anywhere. They gave her stores and a warehouse to call and reserve it before the last one could be sold. She called around for over an hour and finally got to someone who found one in California and ordered it for her.

As she was patting herself on the back for her investigative skills and persistence my friend had an aha! moment. She had recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Her doctor had given her a list of endocrinologists he’d be comfortable recommending but she hadn’t even looked at it, let alone researched it.

“I had been meaning to but I had been putting it off for no good reason. I thought why on earth don’t I apply that same purse passion to taking charge of my own health care?”

She thought about it for a minute and the answer she came up with unnerved her a little. “Health care is not sexy,”  Purses are sexy! Purses are sexier than being healthier and maybe living longer? Eek!

But health is sexy! Quality of life is sexy!

As she started to Google the doctors on the list, she began to sing a parody to that old rock song.
“I’m too sexy for my purse, too sexy for my mouse pad, but not too sexy for my doctor’s office. Maybe a little bit too sexy, but I’m goin’ anyway.”

I think perhaps my friend has touched a nerve in many of us. Would we really rather look good than to feel good?

Sure seems like it. I think it’s that very premise that prompted an ad agency to come up with a TV commercial for a dietary supplement featuring a sexy dancing X-ray skeleton of a baby boomer model that’s protecting her looks by protecting her bones.

It got my attention. If you can’t get them to do it for health, get them to do it for beauty. Twistedly brilliant!

So I guess, if beauty is your motivation, go for it; especially when the health comes with it.
But what do you do if you already have osteoporosis like my friend, or have low bone mass, or you just have the good sense to want to take of your bones?

Osteoporosis And Calcium

I asked Susan Randall, MSN, FNP-BC, Senior Director, Science and Education at the National Osteoporosis Foundation and she said:

Getting enough calcium in our diet is really important. The NOF recommends
an intake of 1,000 miligrams for adult women from age 50 or younger, and age 51 and older — 1,200 milligrams a day for adult women. If a woman isn’t paying enough attention to calcium in her diet she puts herself at risk. But more is not necessarily better when it comes to calcium. Neither women nor men should get more than about 2,000 milligrams a day.

She also said “Weight bearing exercise actually builds bone in youth and will help maintain bone.”

When I asked her about fall prevention she said, “As we get older the type of exercise changes a little bit. We still have to do some impact work but it has to be safe to avoid injury and falls so you want to add balance training, flexibility training, and safe movement to make sure the individual is able to stay active and healthy.”

So what’s the takeaway here? My takeaway is if you like standing on your own two feet, taking care of your bones is about as sexy as it gets.

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Fall Prevention Exercises

Fall PreventionFall Prevention Exercises!

May is Osteoporosis month and I can’t say enough about this debilitating yet largely preventable bone disease.

By definition, osteoporosis is a disease that, over time, causes bones to become thinner, more porous and less able to support the body. Bones can become so thin that they break during normal, everyday activity.
I’ve written a number of articles about the importance of weight bearing exercise and a calcium and vitamin D rich diet in preventing osteoporosis. So today I’m focusing on FALL PREVENTION. So many osteoporotic fractures are caused by falls so anything that can prevent those falls should be on your radar.

An interesting fall prevention method that’s been getting a lot of attention lately is using a Whole Body Vibration platform. Research by the Russian and American space programs has long suggested that a piezo-electric effect caused by vibrating the body strengthens muscles, and may prevent bone loss. A recent German study ‘Erlangen Longitudinal Vibration Study (ELVIS) shows it can also greatly reduce falls.

You simply stand on the vibrating plate and shake for several minutes. How long and how vigorously you shake can be dialed to suit your personal body needs and fitness level.

Commercial versions of the vibration platform are available at gyms and rehab centers. Home versions are sold online and at sporting goods and health equipment stores. Prices for the home versions start at about $199.

And for traditionalist in all of us, it’s true, simple balance exercises can go a long way towards reducing your chances of taking a serious fall.

Fall Prevention Exercises Try this simple exercise:

  • Stand erect near a wall (in case you lose your balance) hands at your sides.
  • Slowly raise one foot a couple of inches off the ground while shifting your weight to your grounded foot.
  • When you’ve got your balance slowly raise your arms over your head and reach for the sky.

As you get more comfortable, try raising your held-up foot farther up until it’s near the knee of your grounded leg.

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