We all know that exercise is good for our physical health & well-being, and this is especially true as we age.
As we get older, we need to be active in as many ways as possible.
We need to include a range of physical activities- fitness, strength, balance, flexibility and just moving more, sitting much less.
The good news is that regular exercise also plays a crucial role in brain health and psychological well-being.
Great news, yes?
The incidence of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is increasing, so it’s welcome news that exercise impacts positively on cognitive function and memory.
Studies have shown that the hippocampus (the memory centre of the brain) is often larger in people who are more active.
It’s been estimated that as little as 10 minutes of exercise can have a positive impact on cognitive function in older adults.
The benefits of exercise on mental health are also well researched.
Any kind of movement, from a slow stroll to a vigorous run, triggers the release of brain chemicals which help to improve mood and reduces the risk of developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
It also helps considerably with managing chronic illness.
As 4 in 5 older people (80%) are now living with one or more chronic illnesses, being active is particularly crucial to both prevent and help manage chronic illnesses.
These include: physical diseases like heart and respiratory disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and osteoporosis.
Very welcome news, yes?
Overall, it’s fair to say that the evidence for exercise benefits is conclusive.
Thankfully, our attitudes and expectations of ageing have changed significantly over time – and now we know that exercise is beneficial to every area of health, along with providing amazing anti-ageing benefits!
One really positive and motivating way to think about exercise is that it produces many physiological changes that balance the effects of ageing on our bodies.
Even up to the 9th decade of life.
Now I’ve got your attention, right?
When I was nursing back in the 70’s, it was believed that the brain had very little capacity to change once we reached adulthood.
We were told that as we age, our brains became less and less able to adapt to interactions with our environments.
Also, that the inevitable physical decline would result in less physical activity.
It would have been considered ludicrous for an 80, 70 or even 60 year old to run a marathon back then.
Now, it’s considered very achievable – and I am living proof of that.
2 years back, at the tender age of 61, I trained and ran my first half marathon.
You don’t have to buy into any limiting beliefs that keep you from being as active as possible as you get older.
That you have to give up your fitness, strength and mobility journey as your body ages.
With the right type of exercise for you, you can live your life as fully as possible, now and into your future.
We now know that the brain has an incredible capacity for change over a person’s lifetime, and this is called neuroplasticity.
The fact that the brain is able to grow and regenerate means your cognitive and physical capacities can expand and thrive, even in your later years.
Several neurological health studies have demonstrated dramatic physical and mental gains in older adults who commit to a progressive activity schedule.
Don’t you think that could be you too?
With these exciting discoveries, you can challenge any restricting assumptions that might be keeping you from being physically active.
So, get out there and move …..