While I love walking, I don’t enjoy working out on exercise machines and have zero interest in going to a gym. I prefer solo activities so exercise classes are not something that interest me. But I do enjoy gardening and yardwork and have thought to myself, while breathing hard and sweat pouring down my face, that such activities must provide a good workout.
It turns out that science agrees with my theory. According to a recent CNN article, gardening for fitness is set to become a health trend. The article provides an overview of research that supports gardening as an effective fitness activity. Included is a link to a CDC chart that shows the calories burned while doing common physical activities. The CDC says light gardening/yard work burns 330 calories for a 154-pound person. That’s the same amount of calories burned as dancing and golfing.
What I like about yard work is that it’s a full body workout. From raking leaves and hauling heavy leaf bags to the curb, to pulling weeds and digging holes for new plants, you engage a variety of muscles and also get a cardio workout. For me, it’s not only about the physical activity but the satisfaction one feels after planting something or removing weeds. A yard tended to your tastes can be a serene space for reflection.
For caregivers of those with dementia, gardening is something that could be a satisfying outdoor activity for both you and your loved one, at least in the earlier stages of the disease. Yardwork involves the hands and rote activity, something that those with dementia seem to find soothing. As long as those with dementia are physically capable, getting light exercise and spending some time outdoors on a regular basis is recommended. Do be careful to keep an eye on your loved one and keep sharp gardening tools out of their reach.
We all know that exercise can offer a variety of health benefits, including supporting cognitive health. Sedentary behavior has been linked to an increased risk of dementia. But as we get older, we may have physical limitations that prevent us from engaging in the strenuous physical activity we may have enjoyed or done with relative ease when we were younger.
A new study suggests that low-impact workouts, including stretching and balance exercises, offer the same cognitive benefits in the area of executive functioning as aerobic activity. The study was performed on young adult subjects, so more testing will be needed, especially on older subjects. These findings could lead to the introduction of passive exercise programs at long term care and rehabilitation facilities.
Another recent study focused on sedentary adults who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Again, the results were promising: cognitive function had not declined after one year of regular workouts, whether it was moderate aerobic exercise or range of motion exercise. A control group of adults with MCI did show a decline in cognitive functioning over the same time period, researchers said.
So the next time you or an older loved one worry you are not getting enough exercise, just remember, any kind of regular exercise can support cognitive health, along with offering a host of other benefits.
It seems every week, there’s a new study recommending that people do this or don’t do that to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s. The most reliable tips line up with an overall healthy lifestyle. Guest blogger Vee Cecil highlights several popular recommendations. – Joy
Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a normal part of aging, although it is much more prevalent among seniors ages 65 and older. In fact, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease rises with age, doubling every five years beyond age 65. The aging population in the United States continues to grow as the Baby Boomer generation enters its senior years, thus, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is also on the rise.
As members of the Baby Boomer generation are expected to live longer, healthier lives than the generations before them, Baby Boomers, as well as younger generations, seek ways to maintain their health and well-being long into their golden years. While there is no surefire preventative measure that eliminates your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, there are a few lifestyle changes that may help to reduce your risk.
Exercise regularly and avoid excessive weight gain. A healthy weight and a physically active lifestyle help you to avoid developing diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In fact, studies have linked diabetes to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If you are among the 10 percent of older Americans who have diabetes, proper management of the disease is essential. If you aren’t already physically active, consider taking up a cardio activity like walking or swimming. Swimming is an especially good choice for seniors because it strengthens muscles that help reduce your risk of falling and is also easy on the joints.
Eat a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. According to an article appearing in ABC News, 16 researchers presented convincing evidence of the benefits of various nutritional strategies in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain in Washington, DC, in 2013. For instance, minimizing your intake of saturated and trans fats and getting enough vitamins and other nutrients from diet staples such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains may contribute to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Berries, in particular, have beneficial properties that may combat memory impairment. “Berries contain high levels of biologically active components, including a class of compounds called anthocyanosides, which fight memory impairment associated with free radicals and beta- amyloid plaques in the brain,” explains Prevention.com. For maximum benefit, make berries a part of your daily diet.
Reduce your risk of heart disease. Scientists continue to research prevention strategies, but there is not yet a proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that many of the same risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease; therefore, it’s possible that lowering your risk of heart disease would also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Such risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, and diabetes. A combination of physical activity, cognitive stimulation, social engagement, and a healthy diet is a multi-component approach in development with the hope of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Stay mentally active. That includes reading, writing, and participating in any activities that engage your brain, such as puzzles, games, and even activities like sewing or crocheting. Studies have shown that people who remain mentally active and regularly participate in reading, writing, and other brain-challenging activities perform better in tests that measure memory and thinking. Learning promotes brain health, and activities that engage your mind are thought to help reduce memory decline over time.
There may not yet be a proven method for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but taking steps to ensure your overall health and well-being will help you lead a longer, more vibrant lifestyle long into your golden years. Because the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease overlap with those associated with other diseases, such as diabetes, a proper diet and regular physical activity will go a long way in preserving a healthy body and mind.
Vee Cecil is passionate about fitness, nutrition and her family. A Kentucky-based personal trainer, bootcamp instructor, and wellness coach, she also recently launched a blog, where she shares information on how to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle.