Imagine a world where there was less memory loss and more oxygen to the brain. How about way less obesity, and way more self-confidence? Here is a good one — way less disease and way more good health?
All of this is possible with exercise. The science backs it up. Exercise can cure a lot of ills. It can help you sleep better, stave off depression, be less anxious, reduce stress, reduce your meds, boost self-confidence and make you a nicer person!
If everyone knew how exercise could make them feel, and its countless health benefits, I am sure they would all be doing it.
Many of the people I meet at the YMCA are just exercising for better physical appearance. But it goes much deeper than that. I suspect as they get to a certain age, in their late 40s or 50s, they are also thinking about how exercise can improve their health.
There are benefits we cannot see in a mirror. Some of these benefits happen in the brain. What if you could improve your memory by exercising regularly? Studies show this is true. Exercise can help your cognitive abilities. When you exercise, your heart rate goes up and you are increasing the blood flow to your brain, which delivers oxygen to that brain. SCORE! How easy is that?
It’s funny that when we become middle-aged, we see things so differently. We never thought about brain health when we are 25, because we didn’t need to. But it would be nice for the next generation to learn what all we know in our 50s and later: Take care of that now, so as the years pass you reap the benefits.
It’s like saving for retirement. You should be doing that at 25, but of course most 20-somethings never give that a thought. Then, when they are 50, they wished they had done so.
Same thing with your physical and brain health. If it is good for your body, then it is probably great for your brain.
For me, I sometimes notice the aging process when I am teaching classes. There is a huge memory component for the person in front of that class, the instructor. The instructor may have to remember sequences, reps, choreography, music changes and much more.
I sometimes rely in a humorous way on my 30-something students. Those young’uns may think it is odd I don’t remember all the stuff I am teaching, and I get a giggle because I know it will happen to them one day.
Blame it on how many kids you have had, or the stress in your life or whatever, but it happens to all of us eventually. But if you could improve on that aspect of aging, wouldn’t you try?
A study done at University of Illinois with subjects 60-79 years old who did aerobic activities three times a week for one hour yielded promising results. Brain volume increased and memory processing improved.
Your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) will thank you if you exercise, get plenty of sleep and improve your diet. To pay you back, those brain chemicals will give you an increased feeling of well-being, and improve your mental state. SCORE!
Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.