Physical fitness is CRITICAL to brain health. Almost every week there is new research showing this to be true.
AEROBIC EXERCISE MAY REVERSE AGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN – Barcelona, Spain, November 6, 2015.
Aerobic exercise appears to improve brain function and reduce markers of neurodegeneration in older adults at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to research being presented at the 8th International Conference on Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD).
So what should you do about it? Know that if you want to prevent or have a chance of reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Cancer, even most arthritis, you cannot do it well without a regular exercise program.
Exercise will look different for different folks, but we know that you seem to get the most benefit in the shortest time with at least moderate intensity exercise. I found a program that can give you this moderate-to-high intensity and still be safe and modifiable enough for people with balance problems or arthritis. At the same time, it can be modified to be challenging enough for the active athlete. I use this program for both myself and my kids. I am a brown belt in karate and my daughter is a 10-year old that isn’t very interested in sports.
Safety is important. If you go too hard at first and injure yourself, then you are set back.
Effort is important. If you don’t push yourself, you will not improve.
Find a balance of safety and effort.
You need to exercise at least 4 times per week. I recommend Strength training 2-3 times per week and Endurance training 2-3 times per week.
The program is called Slow Burn book for ~$10-15 or Slow Burn DVD for ~$50. The book has more of the descriptions of how to do the different exercises, including pictures, while the video walks you through each of them. Either will work well.
The basic principle is that you go through the exercise VERY slowly (moving about 1 inch per second). You use body-weight, hand weights, resistance bands, or gym equipment. A CRITICAL part is to go to the point of EXHAUSTION. This is mentally challenging, because you feel like giving up when you are only about 50-75% the way complete.
The most bang for your buck seems to come from doing intervals. You can do this with walking/jogging, biking, swimming, rowing, etc. This looks like:
- Warm-up: 5 minutes
- 5-8 sets of:
- 30 seconds at a very hard intensity (Gradually build in intensity. For example, the first set could be at ~75% effort, the 2nd at ~85% effort, and the rest at 90-100% effort.)
- 2 minutes easy pace
- alternating back and forth , 30-sec intense, then 2 min easy, 30 sec intense, 2 min easy…
- (When you start this program, do only 3-5 sets, but build up in number as the days and weeks go by.)
- Warm-down: 5 minutes
Track your Progress
In order to stay motivated, continue improving, and use your efforts most efficiently, you need to keep a record of what you did.
- Weight and any modifications to the exercise technique (for Resistance)
- Speed, Distance, or Time to Completion (for Endurance)
Get an Accountability Partner
A fitness trainer is a good idea, but a workout buddy is also super.
If neither is available, write your workout on a schedule or calendar. This becomes an appointment that other things must accommodate to — You are BUSY during that time slot.
Recheck your Healthy Fitness score regularly to make sure you are doing what it takes and that you are making progress.
Plan to Reset
Things come up that throw us off track. That is normal and to be expected. PLAN ON IT. This program will not show results in a few weeks. This is a lifestyle. You are preventing your brain from deteriorating. Know that there will be times that you are not able to work out for a few days or maybe even a couple weeks due to some life challenge, but when this happens:
- allow yourself to do a modification of the program to keep your habit in your brain, AND
- PUT a PLAN on the SCHEDULE of when you expect to get back to the program fully. Sure, you won’t know for certain. It is okay to reset it when you have a better idea exactly. WRITE it down anyway.
You’ve read this far, so I know you can do it. Your life truly depends on it.