How To Keep the Mind and Body Active

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In the “pursuit of happiness” and longevity, this generation is doing their best to maintain an active lifestyle, while not letting some of the physical and mental hurdles that accompany the aging process get in the way. It is important to adjust physical activity levels and intensity as your body changes.

“Exercise doesn’t have to be walking on a treadmill, or going to a gym. The best way to stay active is to mix social and physical activities together and have fun with it. Volunteer at a local church, enroll in group sports, or play catch with the grandchildren,” says Christine Himes-Fordyce, M.D., member of the American Geriatrics Society. She suggests the following activities for aging adults:

Work your heart and lungs every day – walking for at least 30 minutes a day is the best prevention for all chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and dementia. For weight loss you need to increase to 60-90 minutes a day.

Build up muscles – Chair exercises using one to two pound weights are an easy way to build muscle and increase metabolism. Working muscles from head to toe three times a week improves balance and helps prevent falls. Stretch muscles before and after physical activity to warm them and reduce muscle cramping.

Two is better than one – The two most important indicators for healthy aging are staying both socially and physically active. Joining a gym or senior center is a great way to do both.

Make a splash – Pool exercise is a beneficial, safe alternative to build and strengthen muscles, and improve lung and cardiac health. The water creates a low-impact environment which is safe for those who suffer from injuries or arthritis.

Show and tell – Keeping up with grandchildren can be a workout in itself. Active grandparents not only have more fun with their families but are a great role model for the entire family.

According to Dr. Himes-Fordyce, “Daily physical activity is essential for brain health.” In addition to daily walks she suggests the following activities to keep your mind actively working:

Challenge yourself – Crossword puzzles, bridge, Sudoku or math problems are great mental exercise. Learning new things like a new language, memorizing songs or poetry can actually make new neural connections in the brain, which will then help to expand memory.

Minimize passive activity – Try to limit the amount of time spent watching TV or movies. Sedentary activities dull brain activity.

Help others – Volunteering is a great way to keep socially and mentally active.

Christine Himes-Fordyce, M.D. is a member of the American Geriatrics Society.

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