Exercise and Learning has Far-reaching Benefits for Senior Wellness

Living Well Into the Future® by Deupree House

Exercise and Learning has Far-reaching Benefits for Senior Wellness

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You don’t need a gym membership, personal trainer, or nutritionist to start living well. You can take steps toward healthier senior living in your every day life!

Have Fun with Your Senior Wellness Program.

senior fitness activitiesIt’s so much easier to keep up regular exercise when your senior wellness program incorporates everyday activities.

Start Eating Better.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. You can start eating and living well in just 4 simple steps.

  1. Indulge in fruits and vegetables. It’s an unfortunate truth that most seniors are missing out on the disease-fighting nutrients and fiber by not getting the recommended daily requirement of fruits or vegetables.
  2. Go whole grain. Processed grains have no real nutritional value. To make sure that you’re getting the vitamins, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, and antioxidants that fight disease, regulate weight, and keep your body functioning smoothly and efficiently make sure you’re choosing whole grain foods.
  3. Be choosey about your proteins. Because your body doesn’t store protein, you need a daily dose to help you build stronger muscles. Just make sure you’re choosing lean meats and switching things up with cold water fish and beans several times a week.
  4. Pick low-fat dairy. Calcium plays an important role in keeping you active by strengthening you bones. Choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk helps get you that essential calcium without adding extra fat to your diet.

Check out these healthy Mediterranean recipes to get inspired!

Go Dancing.

Dancing may be one of the best forms of exercise for older adults according to a 2007 study presented to the American Heart Association.

In the test, a group of 110 adults with chronic heart conditions were shown to have improved their oxygen consumption by 18 percent and their cardiovascular fitness by 19 percent after 8 weeks of waltzing. Their compatriots who undertook other aerobic exercise—walking on a treadmill or riding a bicycle—saw similar improvement in their heart health (a 16 percent increase in oxygen consumption and 18 percent lift in their cardiovascular fitness), but the study showed that dancing had benefits that lasted long after the test was complete.

Of the two groups of exercisers, the dancers reported a significant increase in their mental wellness as well as their physical fitness—an improvement not reported by the group who participated in more traditional exercise.

Bring Brain Fitness for Seniors into Everyday Life.

Although being a lifelong learner brings better brain fitness for seniors, you don’t have to spend long hours in a lecture hall.

You can exercise your brain in fun simple ways every day. Any kind of activity that makes you think or learn can help sharpen your mind.

In fact, you may already be working on your brain health without even knowing it!

Read More.

The members of the book club at Marjorie P. Lee exercise their brains every time they get together to talk about their latest read—and they always pick a good one. Just this last month they discussed Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy.

And don’t forgo the trip to the library even if you aren’t part of a reading group—you could miss out on a vital opportunity to improve your brain health.

Neuroscientists have shown that the act of reading in itself can help promote brain fitness for seniors.

Reading is a mentally intensive act, says Dr. Ken Pugh, PhD, director of research at Haskins Laboratories—a linguistics research facility associated with Yale. "Parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging," Pugh says.

Eat Chocolate.

You may feel like a rebel when you indulge in that delicious square of dark chocolate, but you’re actually doing your brain a favor.

In addition to giving you a punch of flavanols (antioxidants that promote better cognition) eating chocolate stimulates blood flow to your brain which helps improve the reaction of your learning and memory centers.

A recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical School showed that older adults who have impaired blood flow can improve their brain health by eating (or drinking!) chocolate every day.

“We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,” said Dr. Farzaneh A. Sorond, the neurologist who headed up the study. “As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's.”

Image credit: kurhan / 123RF Stock Photo

Bryan Reynolds
By
October 07, 2013
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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