Today, we kick off our series, Healthy Brain Aging, to arm you with the knowledge and actionable steps to help keep your brain healthy as you age. Every two weeks we’ll discuss actions that you can start taking now that have been shown to reduce your risk for developing dementia. We encourage you to share the steps you’re taking or questions you have on our Facebook page: SMART Brain Aging.
First up is exercise. You may know that exercise is good for protecting the heart, and the great news is that it is also good for the brain. Research has shown that engaging in exercise can significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Exercising comes with a handful of other positive benefits as well. Those who exercise report a happier mood, a clearer memory, and an overall improved feeling of well-being. Exercise can also be done in a social setting, which we’ll see in the coming weeks is another key pillar for keeping the brain healthy.
How much exercise?
The prescribed standard is 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes a week, of moderate aerobic exercise – brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn. If you are doing vigorous exercise – running or aerobic dancing – then you only need half of that, 75 minutes a week.
The Mayo Clinic and the Department of Health give the following tips for knowing how vigorous of exercise you are engaging in.
- Your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath.
- You develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity.
- You can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.
- Your breathing is deep and rapid.
- You develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity.
- You can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
How do I start?
The above guidelines are what to aim for but sometimes starting a new habit can be overwhelming. If you have any pre-existing conditions or have not exercised in a long time it is recommended that you speak with your physician prior to starting. It is also very important to be safe. One-third of adults over the age of 65 fall every year.
A great way to get started is to start small. Set aside 10 minutes a day to go for a walk. As your endurance increases, you can begin to walk longer and increase your pace. There are also many community centers that offer group fitness classes. A great resource to check out is Silver Sneakers. Silver Sneakers has partnered with millions of gyms across the country to offer gym memberships and fitness classes that may be completely covered by your health insurance.
Is it too late to see benefits?
It’s never too late to begin. Studies have shown that even those currently with dementia can improve their brain function by adding exercise to their routines. So if you are 30 years old or 85 years old, starting an exercise program that is right for you will help ward off dementia.
Share your exercise plan with us! Facebook: SMART Brain Aging.
About the Author:
Brian Straub, Pharm D, is a licensed pharmacist, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh. With dementia running in Brian’s family, he was drawn to help find and create solutions for the treatment of dementia. He has joined the SMART Brain Aging team as our Director of Marketing. He is our medication expert and growth guru.