Category Archives: Exercise

Send your brain a Valentine

We are sending our loved ones greetings cards and chocolates next week. Let’s not forget that two pound organ in our heads that keeps the show on the road. 

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Here are 10 tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to help protect your brain from decline  as you age. Please don’t wait till you are in your 60’s to start thinking about your brain health. The sooner your pay attention to it the better off you will be. 
1 Break a sweat
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

I write about exercise and the brain regularly. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to learn more about this. 

2 Hit the books
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online. Continue reading

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Filed under aging brain, brain, brain function, Exercise, exercise and brain health, exercise benefits, good night's sleep

Feeding your body and your brain – Infographic

For the record, this has nothing to do with losing weight, but everything to do with providing your body and your brain with proper nourishment. I especially liked the final segment which points out how your brain benefits from exercise. 

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5 Benefits of exercising outdoors

I wanted to reproduce this very simple infographic because I think it is accurate, helpful and meets my bias of not liking working out indoors at the health club. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it and get worthwhile health benefits. I just really prefer doing it outdoors.

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Tony

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Everyday habits can bolster your memory muscles – Harvard

Regular readers know that I have had several members of my family, or both sides, suffer from dementia in general or Alzheimer’s in particular. So, being a guy in his late 70’s I am particularly sensitive to any kind of cognitive kinks that I may be experiencing. I don’t know if it is my imagination or there are simply more people coming on board the cognitive improvement movement. Herewith, Harvard Healthbeat on tips for strengthening your memory.

Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health. A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline. (my emphasis)

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Exercise

Physical fitness and mental fitness go together. People who exercise regularly tend to stay mentally sharp into their 70s, 80s, and beyond. Although the precise “dose” of exercise isn’t known, research suggests that the exercise should be moderate to vigorous and regular. Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, water aerobics, and competitive table tennis. Vigorous activities include jogging, high-impact aerobic dancing, square dancing, and tennis.

Exercise helps memory in several ways. It reduces the risk of developing several potentially memory-robbing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise is good for the lungs, and people who have good lung function send more oxygen to their brains. There is some evidence that exercise helps build new connections between brain cells and improves communication between them. Finally, exercise has been linked to increased production of neurotrophins, substances that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries.

 

Here are some ways to build physical activity into your daily routine:

Walk instead of driving when possible.

Set aside time each day for exercise. For extra motivation, ask your spouse or a friend to join you.

Use the stairs instead of the elevator.

Continue reading

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Filed under aging, aging brain, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's risk, dementia, Exercise, exercise benefits, memory, successful aging

Famous people born today – January 26

General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Newman, Angela Davis, Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Van Halen, Jules Feiffer and Ellen DeGeneres were all born on January 26.

Oh, yes, and one not so famous. It’s also my birthday. I am now 78 years old. I am happy to say that I feel great and am healthier than I was 20 years ago when I toiled in the working world.

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This is my birthday picture from last year. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated.

This is from my birthday blog post last year:

One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. But I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly eight years, but if you want to get control of your weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading

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Some micro reasons to exercise

Eat less; move more; live longer. I have been preaching that for the nearly nine-year life of this blog. There are lots of ways that exercise benefits our brains as well as our bodies which I hope will protect me from cognitive damage as I age. When it comes to the trillions of microbes in my gut, however, I confess to pretty much total ignorance. They are there. They do their jobs. We get along fine.

A recent issue of the New York Times, however, had Gretchen Reynolds writing about exercise benefiting our gut microbes in some very interesting ways. Here is a link to the article if you would like to read the full details.

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Below is a quote of several paragraphs which I found meaningful.

“Most of these changes were not shared from one person to the next. Everyone’s gut responded uniquely to exercise.

“But there were some similarities, the researchers found. In particular, they noted widespread increases in certain microbes that can help to produce substances called short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are believed to aid in reducing inflammation in the gut and the rest of the body. They also work to fight insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, and otherwise bolster our metabolisms. Continue reading

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Exercise may reverse heart effects of middle-aged couch potatoes – Study

Eat less; move more; live longer. The mantra persists just as we do if we follow it. An American Heart Association study reports that exercise (moving more) can rejuvenate us even if we have lived a sedentary life in middle age.

Highlights:

Two years of exercise training during middle age may reduce or reverse the cardiac consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

Two years of exercise training may be an effective lifestyle modification for rejuvenating aging hearts and reducing the risk of heart failure.

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Middle-aged couch potatoes may reduce or reverse the risk of heart failure associated with years of sitting if they participate in two years of regular aerobic exercise training, according to a new study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Study participants who adhered to the aerobic exercise regimen had significant improvements in how their body used oxygen and had decreased cardiac stiffness after two years, both markers of a healthier heart. Aerobic exercises are sustained activities, such as walking, swimming, running, biking and others that strengthen the heart and other muscles and help the body use oxygen effectively.

“The key to a healthier heart in middle age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life,” said study author Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., lead author of the study and the founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a joint program between Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas. Continue reading

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How many calories do you burn in a day? – Infographic

Although this blog started out as simply a weight loss tool, it has since morphed into a guide for general healthy (and long) living. Nonetheless, knowing how to count calories and how we burn them is a super tool for living a healthy life. Hence, the following infographic.

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Massaging Brain Cells to Fight Alzheimer’s

I have written repeatedly about physical exercise benefiting the brain. It seems that now a new study has found a way to actually stimulate the brain cells which may benefit individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Some researchers at Montana State University have a light touch when it comes to unraveling the mysteries of the brain and exploring new ways to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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A team led by Anja Kunze, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, uses tiny magnets to stretch small branches of individual brain cells in her lab.

“It’s a very gentle force,” Kunze said. “It would be like getting a massage.” Continue reading

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Sore muscles after exercise – MNT

Lots of folks are experiencing new beginnings right now as the new year commences. Exercise programs are high on the list of resolutions, particularly after some festive over indulgence in the past month. Medical News Today offered the following explanation of that pain you have in your freshly exercised muscles.

Whether you are cramming in some last-minute exercise before the holidays or trying a new workout, beware of aching muscles. But why does your body feel so sore, and what can you do to speed up recovery?

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Have you decided to make a start on your New Year’s resolution and take up exercise now? Or maybe you’re looking at stepping up your usual routine as a result of the inevitable excesses of the holidays? The chances are that your muscles will pay the price.

Starting within a day of your exercise session, your muscles begin to seize up, and you feel more and more uncomfortable. For the next couple of days, you move like a robot, find it hard to dress yourself, and the simple act of walking down a set of stairs will see you groaning in agony.

Whether you have recently taken up exercise or simply pushed your limits, you may well be familiar with this sequence of events. Continue reading

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The magic of music – Infographic

I am such a music lover it is a wonder that in my 77 years I never learned to play an instrument. One of the happiest discoveries I have made in the past two years was when I found a water bottle with blue tooth speaker on top. It has been an integral part of my bike riding every day since then. Herewith an infographic on music from takelessons.com

Have you ever thought about how awesome music is? The joy of performing and listening to music forms a universal language that connects us across cultures and across time.

And yet despite how universal the experience of music is, there’s still a lot we don’t know about its effects on our bodies and minds. In fact, the famed anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said that music is “the supreme mystery of human knowledge.”

Mysterious though it may be, scientists have discovered some interesting theories for the most common musical phenomena that we all experience. For example, why do songs get stuck in your head? What’s the effect of music on memory?

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Short-term exercise = Big-time brain boost – Study

Herewith more good news on the connection between exercise and mental capacity. Eat less; move more; live longer – and maybe think better.

A 10-minute, one-time burst of exercise can measurably boost your brain power, at least temporarily, researchers at Western University in London, Canada, have found.

While other studies have showed brain-health benefits after 20-minutes of a single-bout of exercise, or following commitment to a long-term (24-week) exercise program, this research suggests even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can prime the parts of the brain that help us problem-solve and focus.

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“Some people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” said Kinesiology Prof. Matthew Heath, who is also a supervisor in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and, with master’s student Ashna Samani, conducted the study. “This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits.” Continue reading

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Turn your exercise into fun – Harvard study

Eat less, move more, live longer. Sometimes those simple rules are easier said than done. I am blessed that I love riding my bike. No one needs to get me riding every day. I can’t wait to get out there. That isn’t the case for most folks. Additionally, I use an Apple watch to track my activity and keep me aware of my goals . You can check out my Page – How my Apple watch is good for your health here. I hadn’t realized at the time that the watch turned my exercise into a game.

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Gabi and me riding in Chicago’s famous Bike the Drive ride.

Does exercise sometimes feel like an annoying chore? Adding a little friendly competition and other “gamification” strategies just might help, according to a new study.

The six-month-long study included 94 families who tracked their daily step counts with a wearable device or a smartphone. Just over half of the participants were women, and their average age was 55. Half were randomly chosen for the gamification arm of the study, which was designed to encourage collaboration, accountability, and team spirit. These families received small prizes tied to achieving daily and weekly step goals. They boosted their daily walking distance by almost a mile — more than twice the gains achieved by people who weren’t part of the competition. Continue reading

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Exercise helps brain functions – Study

As regular readers know, I think we should all exercise regularly to keep our bodies and brains functioning at their best levels. It’s nice to see that the phrase use it or lose it has value on more than one level.

Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory—the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand—and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function.

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These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating sub-optimal cardiovascular and metabolic , and sub-optimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.

This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and .

The results of the study were published online in Molecular Psychiatry on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

The research team took brain scans of 823 participants in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a large brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health, while they performed a task involving working memory, and extracted measures of brain activity and connectivity to create a brain map of working memory. The team then used a statistical method called sparse canonical correlation to discover the relationships between the working memory brain map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental health, personality, and lifestyle choices. They found that cohesiveness in the working memory brain map was positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Physical traits such as high body mass index, and suboptimal lifestyle choices including binge alcohol drinking and regular smoking, had the opposite association.

“Working memory accounts for individual differences in personal, educational, and professional attainment,” said Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Working is also one of the brain functions that is severely affected by physical and mental illnesses. Our study identified factors that can either support or undermine the brain network. Our findings can empower people to make informed choices about how best to promote and preserve health.”

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Two days – no exercise – Doctor’s orders

WHAT MADNESS IS THIS??? Sentenced to the sedentary penitentiary? By a medical man?

I am still the guy who wakes up in the morning looking forward to hopping on the bike and cranking up 10+ miles before breakfast. A flashback is in order.

Two weeks ago I had a big medical week. My annual physical and flu shot were due and I was having trouble chewing on one of my wisdom teeth. So, I had a doctor’s appointment and a dentist appointment in the same week. My normally robust good health keeps me out of doctors’ offices most weeks of the year.

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So, I fasted in the morning, saw the doctor, had my blood drawn and left the hospital ravenous for food. So much for the doctor’s visit. My doctor was kind enough email me my blood work results that evening.

Component Results

Component Your Value Standard Range
CHOLESTEROL 198 mg/dL
Guideline: < 170 mg/dl, Optimal (Not to be construed as a target for drug therapy.)
TRIGLYCERIDE 47 mg/dL
Guideline: < 100 mg/dl, Optimal (Not to be construed as a target for drug therapy.) > 499 mg/dl, Highly abnormal (Please review with your medical team.)
HDL CHOLESTEROL 80 mg/dL
Guideline: > 50 mg/dl, Optimal (Not to be construed as a target for drug therapy.)
LDL CHOL (CALC) 109 mg/dL
Guideline: < 100 mg/dl, Optimal (Not to be construed as a target for drug therapy.) > 189mg/dl, Highly abnormal (Please review with your medical team.)
Non-HDL Cholesterol 118 mg/dL
Guideline: < 120 mg/dl, Optimal (Not to be construed as a target for drug therapy.) > 219 mg/dl, Highly abnormal (Please review with your medical team.)

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Do we have to gain weight as we age?

I just took a WebMD quiz on weight and aging and barely passed. I read and write about this stuff every day and wasn’t sure about a number of answers.

You can take the quiz  by clicking the link in the lead.

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Here are a couple of questions that tripped me up:

Thinner is better as you get older. True of False. I thought it was true. But, no. Here is WebMD’s answer, “You want to be healthy, not frail. For older adults, what matters most is how active you are and whether you can do all your everyday activities. While it’s important to stay at a healthy weight, how much of your weight is muscle instead of fat is also key. Your doctor can tell you if your weight is on track.”

Here is one more example, but I suggest you take the quiz as it has lots of good information.

Gaining weight is a fact of aging. True of False. I thought, incorrectly, True. Here is WebMD’s answer, “You can keep your weight steady as you age. It does get harder, but it’s possible. Those corners you cut when you were younger (huge portions, happy hours, little to no exercise)? You can’t get away with them anymore. But age doesn’t have to equal weight gain.”

As an old guy, I should have got this one right. The fact about cutting corners is something I face every day. There are no corners to cut – and get away with. One of the facts of life of aging is that your margin of error shrinks to virtually nothing. Here is an example. Twenty years ago when I caught a cold, I would be over it in a couple of days. Now, if I catch a cold, it is at least a week affair and probably longer. That’s one of the reasons that I am so scrupulous about me health. There is no margin of error.

I hope you will click the link and take the test. I bet you will learn something.

Tony

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Filed under aging, aging myths, Exercise, exercise benefits, longevity, successful aging