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Brain Fitness: Can physical exercise really improve your memory?

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Short answer … Yes.  An article on my CNN phone app caught my attention yesterday. Titled, “It’s time to get your brain in shape”, it included a list of things you can do daily to keep your brain sharp. You won’t be surprised that one of them was physical exercise. Still, it’s easier to associate improved brain function with mental exercise and a healthy diet. How does physical exercise make a difference, even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease? The CNN article states that, “exercise enhances the growth and survival of new neurons in the hippocampus – a region of the brain essential for long-term memory – which may be able to replace others that degenerate as a result of the disease.” So read that again … exercise can replace memory neurons that degenerate. So it’s not just preventative, it’s restorative!

For you science geeks interested in more detail, another article from Harvard Health Publications, Get your heart pumping in the fight against forgetfulness, claims that exercise “stimulates brain regions that are involved in memory function to release a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF rewires memory circuits so they work better. … BDNF isn’t available in a pill. Only the brain can make it, and only with regular exercise. That means 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, ideally five days a week. The threshold for brain benefit seems to be raising your heart rate to 70% of maximum. For men, the maximum heart rate is roughly 220 minus age.”

I love finding evidence on the health benefits of regular exercise beyond weight loss. Our culture puts a high value on cognitive strength as well as physical strength. Isn’t it cool to know you can improve both with the same investment of effort?

What surprising health benefits have you seen from your exercise regimen?

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First in Training, NC

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Trends in corporate employee wellness programs

Check this out. According to the article, Trend: Employee Wellness published by Great Place to Work, 55 of the top 100 best workplaces in 2013 offered financial incentives for employees to participate in wellness programs. And the incentives ranged from an average of $460 to a best of $2600 so it’s not just a token. The article also credits companies for having onsite gyms or subsidies for offsite fitness centers. Gym benefits have been around a bit longer though but the point here is the trend.

The trend involves two good things:

  • More companies are actively supporting health & fitness
  • Companies are getting more creative and flexible with their programs

I really love the idea of an incentive for participating in a wellness program on your own. Gyms aren’t for everyone but if they’re your thing, you will probably use one with or without a subsidy. An incentive for a wellness program could (and should) be for whatever it is that works for each individual. It might be food counseling or a step tracker or personal exercise therapy.

With all of the changes and unknowns related to how health care is and will be paid for it makes intense sense for employers who have a stake in it on many levels to invest on the prevention side of health care. Do you agree?

If you got a financial incentive for a wellness program, what would you use it for?

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First in Training, NC


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Meet Fitipzz!

ImageWelcome Fitipzz!  This exercise bee is here to take some of the ‘sting’ out of exercise issues, common complaints and struggles by addressing some of the everyday and real issues my clients and I deal with on a daily basis.  As an exercise professional, we honestly want our clients and patients to see progress and feel better.  So believe it or not, we can have just as many frustrations with lack of progress as our clients do and can sometimes get even more excited about the progress!

ImageFitipzz comment of the day – I can’t exercise at home….  yes, actually you can! Lets find what the actual issue is that is preventing you from feeling like you can exercise at home.  Lack of privacy?  Lack of space?  Lack of ideas of what to do?   Instead, find the underlying cause and attack that.  Any great solutions or stories about working out at home when the situations are not ideal?  How do you solve that problem?

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Exercise? I would, but I…..

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I am too tired! – Exercise increases your body’s feel-good hormones (endorphins) and actually will give you more energy.  Some prefer to work out in the morning before your day gets away from you and helps you get through what you have to do.  If you are not a morning person, just do it whenever you feel at your best!

I don’t have the time! – Exercise when you are watching your favorite TV shows.  If they are not recorded, do your exercise during commercials.  If you cant find one consecutive hour, do a few shorter sessions.  Getting something in is always better then nothing!

I cant get time away from the kids! –  Take them with you!  Go for a bike ride, play a game of soccer, go for a walk, do races in the park.  Weather not cooperating?  Have a dance contest, try WIIfit.  When mom and dad are fit and have more energy, the whole family benefits!

I just don’t like to exercise –  First, figure out why.  Then tackle that problem.  Is it that you don’t like getting sweaty? You can work out indoors where it’s air conditioned. You can swim so you won’t notice any perspiration. Or try a low-sweat activity.

Is it hard on your joints? Head for the pool. Exercising in water is easier on your joints. The stronger your muscles get, the more they can support your joints and the less you’ll hurt. If your physical limitations are more serious, check with your doctor or exercise professional, to help you figure out exercises that are still safe and easy to do.

If you’re self-conscious about your weight, you could start by walking with friends, working out in the privacy of your home, or exercising with a trainer who’s supportive. Wear clothes that feel comfortable.  

I have tried before, it just does not work for me – Start with setting goals that are small and realistic. Then you’re more likely to feel like a success. It also helps to keep a log and post it somewhere public — even on Facebook. This can create a support system and help you through the tuff days.  A log also helps you see if you’re starting to fall off the wagon (or the treadmill).  Try getting an exercise buddy, this will also help to keep you accountable.

 

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Exercises to help you breathe

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With COPD, the less you do, the less you’re able to do. Weak muscles need more oxygen, so you can become short of breath with simple daily tasks. Exercise can change that. The more you do to condition your muscles, the easier daily activities become. The easier they are, the more independent you can stay.

Make sure to breathe slowly during your exercises. Inhale through your nose with your mouth closed to warm and filter the air. Exhale through your mouth for twice as long as your inhale.  If you feel your breath getting fast or shallow, stop, rest and relax your body.

Walk – Just about everyone with COPD can exercise. Walking is a great choice, especially if you’re just getting started. Do it anywhere — outside, in a mall, on a treadmill. If it seems daunting, add 30 seconds or 10 yards each day. Even a slow pace will do you good. If you haven’t been active lately, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Bike–  A stationary bike can work well for people with COPD. You can pedal away in the privacy of your home, In a gym or rehab setting, where you can find supervision and meet people. Ask the instructor before jumping into a group cycling class, to be sure it matches your ability. As you improve, try a spin outside on a traditional bike and soak up the scenery.

Light resistance training–  Lifting light weights can help you reach a high shelf or lug a gallon of milk, or climb the stairs with more ease.  Choose hand weights, stretchy bands, or water bottles and get recommended exercises from a professional.

Exercise Your Diaphragm–  This move strengthens a key breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Lie down with your knees bent or sit in an easy chair. place one hand on your chest, one below your rib cage. Slowly inhale through your nose so that your stomach raises one hand. Exhale with pursed lips and tighten your stomach. The hand on your chest should not move. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, three or four times a day. Breathing this way will become easy and automatic.

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/

WebMD.com
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First in Training, NC