July 15, 2011
Much has been written about the benefits of exercise for mind and body. Sometimes all seniors need is someone to help motivate them.
Q. I read a lot about the benefits of physical exercise. But does exercise help the mind, too? I'm a 78-year-old widow who is interested in being more active, but I have trouble getting out for personal business as well as socializing. I don't have family around. Do you have any suggestions?
You are certainly on track when it comes to recognizing the value of exercise, and both your body and mind can reap the benefits. While it's been well substantiated that exercise can improve heart health, there's increasing evidence that physical activity can also impact the mind.
A study from Johns Hopkins discovered that a variety of leisure and physical activities could reduce dementia risks in older adults. The report, which appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggested that participating in a number of different activities may be as or more important than frequency, duration and intensity of physical activity with respect to dementia risk.
Another study supported by the National Institutes of Health revealed that regular physical activity, mental stimulation and a diet rich in antioxidants can fight the effects of aging in canine brains, and possibly human ones, as well. A study of beagles found that older dogs performed better on cognitive tests and were more likely to learn new tasks when they were fed a diet fortified with fruits, vegetables and vitamins, were exercised at least twice weekly, and given the opportunity to play with other dogs and a variety of stimulating toys. Like humans, dogs have a more complicated brain structure than many other animals. The study was reported in Neurobiology of Aging.
With this mounting evidence of the positive impact of physical activity, as well as other healthy lifestyle practices, you are smart to be thinking about becoming more active.
Why not begin by getting involved in your local senior center. Nearly every community has one. If you don't have a way to get to the senior center, call the center or your Area Agency on Aging or Home Instead Senior Care® to learn about transportation services in your community. Connecting with other seniors who share some of your interests will be the best way to stay on the move.
Your local Home Instead Senior Care office also specializes in companionship, socialization and helping seniors make the most of their active lives. They can help you take care of household business as well as plan fun activities.
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