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  • Karen Mcphail, RN, MSN, CDP

The Impact of a Regular Fitness Routine on Cognition

It is proven that not only is aerobic exercise good for your cardiovascular health, balance, flexibility, strength, and overall mobility, it also benefits your brain and cognitive health! Aerobic exercise is good for blood flow and vascular health throughout the body. A recent NIH study even sites the positive effects of aerobic exercise on increasing hippocampal volume in older women with mild cognitive impairment. Exercise clearly has positive effects on many areas and impacts overall energy levels, attitude, mood, self-esteem, focus, memory, body image, and concentration. So embrace spring and begin a positive exercise program to fit your needs today!

Some tips below to consider along the way:

Be Realistic and Consistent!

Set up a schedule and goals that are realistic to avoid disappointment and poor compliance. Many people do not follow a daily exercise regime due to unrealistic goals and frustration. Keep it simple, keep it on your terms, and keep it consistent!

Have Fun!

Make exercise time a positive and not something that you dread or try to avoid! Be true to yourself! What do you really enjoy? Do you like biking alone? Do you prefer a group class or working out with others? Cardio dance or Zumba of interest? Chair exercise best? Does a peaceful am walk around your neighborhood make you happy? Does music help you to be more effective? An audio book? A TV show or Netflix program? Do you exercise better when you are outside or in gym? If needing to be inside for in climate weather do you work out better when by a window to the outside or with more light? Think about what makes exercise time effective, happy, and fun or you and move forward! Always be true to yourself!!!

Strength is Power!

Resistance training has been shown to reduce anxiety, benefit cognition, and overall focus. Resistance training improves muscular strength and endurance. During this type of exercise you are working against resistance provided by your body weight, gravity, resistance bands, or light weight dumbbells. With physician clearance explore ways to begin strength training at your individual level. The ACSM recommends that adults do both aerobics and strength training - 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity is advised 3 to 5 days a week and strength training should be done for 20 to 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week. Strength Training for Seniors is an excellent and low cost resource book:

You can also explore programs online, on television, Netflix via dvd, or at a fitness or exercise club.

Stretch and Clear your Mind!

Take a minute each morning and evening to sit and clear your mind. Simple mindfulness, controlled breathing, and meditation can be of a true health benefit! It helps with anxiety, focus, attention anymore! Clearing your mind and removing excess clutter provides one with a sense of calmness and control. However, it is something that takes time and practices as any exercise does! This is truly exercise for your mind! Begin by sitting in a quiet and comfortable space where you will not be disturbed. Begin to slow and control your breathing concentrating on your lower abdomen. Watch your stomach rise and fall slowly. You may want to have a mantra that you repeat in your mind as you breath such as , "I am happy, I am peaceful, I am grounded, I am balanced." Dismiss any excess clutter and focus on your mantra, relax! Several recent studies have shown that those who focus on controlled breathing exercises routinely have significant improvement in their focus and attention. Pairing this with a routine yoga class to foster flexibility, balance, and strength can also be beneficial.

No matter what you try remember that consistency is the key to success long term!!! Stick with it and make it a part of your daily routine!

* As with an exercise program seek guidance from your physician sprior to starting.


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