Exercise for your brain and body

Physical activity is a valuable part of any overall wellness plan and is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. The new year is a great time to start integrating exercise into your daily life to help improve the health of your brain and body.

Growing evidence suggests that many factors that increase the risk of heart disease also may increase the risk of dementia. In other words, what you would do to keep your heart healthy may also keep your brain healthy. If it’s safe for you to do so, engage in cardiovascular exercise to elevate your heart rate. This will increase the blood flow to your brain and body, providing additional nourishment while reducing potential dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Adopting healthy exercise habits today will allow you to enjoy the benefits of regular physical activity.

Helpful fitness tips: 

Incorporate activities into your fitness plan you enjoy so you will continue to engage in it. For example bike riding, gardening and walking the dog are three things you could add to your day to get regular movement. 

There are many free exercise videos for people of different ability levels that you can follow along with on YouTube. Just search for what you are looking for, such as “15-minute walking workout” or “Easy chair exercises.”

Invite a friend to get active with you. It can increase your accountability and help get you moving on the days you don’t want to work out, even if it’s just texting each other to check-in. If you do meet in person, always take proper COVID precautions, like wearing a mask and meeting outdoors.

We currently offer a Physical Fitness at Home series, funded by Southeast Washington Aging & Long-Term Care for residents of Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Kittitas, Walla Walla and Yakima counties. The program is hosted by Julie Hooley, the Care Navigator for Southeast Washington.

Jeannie, a participant in the class, said, “The class has been very good for me as I don’t get much exercise otherwise. Julie is wonderful and lots of fun. Sometimes she sets up games for us to do along with the exercises.”

Want to try some new at-home exercises? 

Julie recommends these two for starters. 

Seated Jack: Start with your feet together and hands in your lap. Raise your hands up at the same time as you kick your feet forward and out to the sides. Then bring hands and feet back to the starting point. Do 5-10 per set as you are able.

Cross Punch-Kick: Start with one arm out front and the opposite leg out front. Bring your arm and leg back into you and switch to the other arm and opposite leg reaching out front. Switch 5-10 times per set.

It’s never too late to start — making healthy choices at any age is beneficial to your well-being. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Looking for other ways to improve your brain health in the new year? Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits. The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Ways to Love your Brain, recommendations from the latest research for keeping your brain and body healthy.

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