Staying active helps you live a longer, healthier life. Did you know it may also boost your brain health?
A recent study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests cardiovascular exercise like walking, jogging, and biking increases your gray matter and brain volume, which studies show can slow cognitive changes associated with aging.
This comes as no surprise to John-Paul H. Rue, MD, an orthopedic and sports medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. âIt supports what many doctors and sports trainers have long stated,â he says. âIn addition to the obvious benefits, like stronger muscles and healthier heart and lung function, thereâs now growing evidence of improved cognitive function.â
We asked Rue and Thanu Jey, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and director of Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto, how to exercise safely as you age.
Pick activities that are easy on your joints, Jey says. Good choices are brisk walking, biking, swimming, dancing, and water aerobics. Avoid jumping, which puts added impact on your ankle, knee, and hip joints, and increases your risk of falling.
DONâT start without your doctorâs OK.
âCheck with your doctor before you start any new exercise routine,â Rue says. Your doctor will check your heart and lungs and make sure your new routine is a good fit.
Focus on form and technique, especially when you start a new activity. âThe key to avoiding overuse injuries is to ensure proper form,â Rue says.
Go slow and easy at first. If youâre walking or biking, start with a short distance or time. If youâre using weights or resistance, use light weights or low resistance. âOnce your body gets used to it, gradually build up the intensity or distance,â Rue says.
Take a few minutes before and after your workout to stretch, Rue says. Stretching keeps you flexible and wards off injuries. Try stretches for your upper body, lower body, neck, and back. Check out an online yoga class.
As you age, falls are more common. Improving your balance lowers your risk. Try tai chi or yoga. Practice standing on one foot. Try walking heel-to-toe. âStart stability and balance training early so it becomes part of your daily routine,â Jey says.
If you have a cold, the flu, or another illness, hold off on exercise until you feel better. If something hurts, stop. See your doctor if you have shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain or pressure, trouble balancing, or nausea.
1. Choose Good Shoes
âLook for an athletic shoe with extra grip and flexibility,â Jey says. Arch support and an elevated, cushioned heel are also important.
2. Consider the Elements
Be aware of your surroundings so you donât trip or fall. Dress appropriately for the temperature. If itâs too hot, exercise indoors.
3. Stay Hydrated
Donât wait until youâre thirsty. Drink a glass of water before your workout, keep drinking during your workout, and drink up after youâre done.
4. Rest Up
Rest helps you perform better and recover faster. If you didnât get a good nightâs sleep, cut back on intensity or skip your workout until tomorrow.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of
Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic Proceedings: âCardiorespiratory Fitness and Gray Matter Volume in the Temporal, Frontal, and Cerebellar Regions in the General Population.â
News – Dos and Donâts for Senior Fitness