Numerous studies link strength training to better brain function.
Story: Jaime Brenkus
Resistance training that works specific muscle groups is an important aspect of fitness, helping increase muscle mass, slow down or halt muscle loss, slow bone loss, and maintain or increase joint flexibility. Working out with weights or bands or anything that provides resistance to your muscle gives older adults better function.
If you follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, active aging adults should participate in resistance training at least twice a week. This greatly improves memory, attention span, problem solving, and decision-making, all which lead to a sharper mind.
Two quick exercises you can do right now are stand-ups and wall push-ups. Wall push-ups are like regular push-ups done on the floor, except performed against a wall. Start with 15 reps. Next, do stand-ups. Sit in a chair and get up without using chair arms. Hit your buns on the chair each time. Do 15 reps.
Unlike cardiovascular exercises, which come more naturally, strength training requires a person to pay attention to form, count repetitions, or remember what body part to work, all while stimulating the brain, which staves off the onset of dementia.
For a well-rounded mental program, include balance exercises, which help you stay independent by avoiding the disabilities that result from falling and give you confidence.
Try this one: Standing on your right leg, hold on to a chair with your left hand. Slowly reach with your right hand and try to touch your right foot 15 times. Then switch to the opposite side.
Stay flexible. Stretching exercises give you more freedom of movement, which allows more activity during your senior years, providing more independence.
Here are eight great moves to increase flexibility that can be done in bed:
Grab both knees and bring them up to your chest. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
Hamstring stretch: Keep your leg straight and at 90 degrees, and gently pull your leg toward you. Hold for a count of 10.
Bicycle the legs: Do this for 15 seconds.
Twisters: Keep one leg straight on the bed while you place your opposite leg gently across and over the straight leg two times on each side.
Crisscross: At chest level, crisscross arms back and forth for 15 reps.
Swimmers stretch: Lying on your stomach, bring your opposite arm and opposite leg up at the same time. Hold for a count of five and alternate sides.
Cat stretch: On your hands and knees, hump your back up and down slowly five times.
Side reach: Sitting up in bed, bring one arm up and over to the side. Hold for five counts and switch sides.
About the writer
Jaime Brenkus (exercisewithjaime.com) is a fitness coach for Evergreen Wellness, connecting older adults with a team of experts who help people live more fulfilled lives. He is best known for revolutionizing the fitness industry with his “8-Minute Abs” video series in the 1990s.