It’s Never Too Late !

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Exercise means 
body & brain development

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Just a little bit, may mean a whole lot

As we age, our brains begin to shrink and the cortex or gray matter thins. Hence, we begin to forget things, multi-tasking becomes difficult. Many of us worry about dementia or Alzheimer’s. What we desire most is quality of life. There is good news on this front and the big story is – ‘It’s Never Too Late’.

Never too late to what you ask? It’s never too late to improve your physical, social and intellectual stimulation. Research results from a University of Maryland study showed that physical activity can thicken the cortex, the wrinkly gray outermost layer of our brain. It’s the thinning of the cortex that often leads to the onset of mild cognitive impairment, a decline in thinking skills that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

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The University of Maryland researchers had a group of previously inactive adults ages 61 to 88 to walk at moderate intensity on treadmills four times a week for 30 minutes. Three months later, MRI scans showed that many participants experienced a thickening of the cortex. The study supported previous research suggesting that exercise can improve memory function. When you add social and intellectual stimulation to the physical activity – things just get better!

World-wide studies have reinforced that many of the changes attributed to aging are caused in large part by disuse. A unique study at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School demonstrated just how important exercise can be. It must have sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime; all the participants had to do was spend three weeks of their summer vacation resting in bed. But when they got out of bed at the end of the trial, it probably didn’t seem so good. Testing the men before the study, then after the three weeks, researchers found devastating changes that included faster resting heart rates, higher systolic blood pressures, a drop in the maximum pumping capacity of the heart, a rise in body fat, and a fall in muscle strength. In just three weeks, these 20-year-olds developed many physiological characteristics of people twice their age.

Fortunately, the scientists didn’t stop there. Instead, they put everyone on an 8-week exercise program. Exercise did more than reverse the deterioration brought on by the bed rest; some measurements were better than ever after the training. The Dallas study was a dramatic demonstration of the harmful consequences of disuse. It’s a lesson that’s been learned yet again in the era of space travel, and it has helped change medical practice by encouraging an early return to physical activity after illness or surgery.

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For more than 25 years, the Institute for Aging Research, at Harvard Medical school have conducted hundreds of research projects associated with aging. Their findings relating to exercise confirm its benefits to the quality of life.

All studies conducted relating to exercise are in concert with each other. They show an exercise program will help delay many of the changes of aging, particularly when you combine it with other preventive measures. Exercise is one way to slow the aging process, but it works best in combination with eating properly; keep your mind active and stimulated. Mental exercise is an important complement to physical exercise. Get regular medical care, and build strong social networks. Friends are good medicine at any age.

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More and more research is suggesting regular exercise helps people age more slowly and live healthier, more vigorous lives. Maximum benefit does require regular exercise over the years, but it doesn’t mean a trip to the gym every day. In fact, just 30 minutes of brisk walking every day will go a long way toward enhancing your health.

Today, most municipalities offer programs for their senior residents. The City Pickering offers exercise programs for residents 55+ and you don’t have to be an athlete to participate. There are people from 55 to 80 in some programs. You can go at your own pace and the instructors will tell you to rest when you want. So, in time you can build your confidence.

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Additionally, many participants socialize before class starts. Get yourself a Leisure Guide from the City and begin the road to a better quality of life. Oh, yes if you are just start out your new fitness program, it’s a good idea talk to your doctor first.

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Remember, it`s never too late to have regular physical activity in your life. Aging is inevitable, but with some planning, we can age with grace and vigor. Regular exercise, along with a good diet, good medical care, good genes, and a bit of luck, can make it happen: We can Age Well Together!

We can`t stop the clock, but every one of us can slow its ticking.

Mike McFarland
Aging well advocate

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