TAKE A HIKE: Scientific Reasons to MOVE FOR BRAIN HEALTH

August and Summer are almost gone and I’ve chosen to call September My Healthy Aging Month…along with the other 11 months each year. Why not?! we can’t exactly stop the “hands of time”, as we age daily. However, we can take our health into our own hands.  As a health professional, and seasoned citizen, it’s my mission to guide – especially fellow seniors – to feel and look their very best and stay stronger as they age.

As life MOVES us through stages there are always choices.  “Positive attitudes and expectations” are vital. Although we’re not what we were yesterday, or 30 years ago, let’s not play the comparison game.  Ok, wrinkles and gray hair are obvious signs of aging and other areas of the body experience changes too. However, “aches and pains are not necessarily a part of aging”.

I won’t deny those things happen, a new zumba step or yoga asana (pose) can cause temporary awareness of a muscle that hasn’t been worked well recently.  What I promote is what we can do to get and keep our bodies and brains in great condition.  There are steps (literally) we can take to help ourselves stay active and healthy as we move forward. “Move” is the key word.  Remember you are in charge of your body.  Set goals and go for them.

Staying active (walking, hiking, yoga, biking, dancing, tai chi, pickleball, etc.),  MOVING in a way that you enjoy, may prevent or delay disease and disabilities. Exercise, eating right and getting adequate sleep are all important (we all know that, right?!) and these are the things over which you have control in your life.  

Yes, staying active and exercising is amazingly beneficial for the brain.  According to Dr. David Perlmutter, noted neurologist, who authored “Grain Brain”, among the other benefits of exercise is enhanced brain function. I highly recommend reading it as it’s written for the person who wants practical answers to health questions including obesity, brain fog, diabetes, food sensitivities and more.  Here are just a few of the benefits of exercise to your brain:

• Protects, preserves brain function                             (he got me at this!)

*Controls inflammation                                                 (the cause of most disease states) 

• Increases insulin sensitivity                                       (control/prevent diabetes & energy)

• Influences better blood sugar control                      (control/prevent diabetes & energy)

• Expands the size of the memory center                   (we all need this)

• Promotes growth of new neurons and networks in the brain*.     

*Yes, we CAN and do grow new brain cells and connections!

If you’re concerned about your brain functioning well this ought to make you get off the couch and at least walk around the block a few times!  If you’re just beginning,  check with your health care professional and start as soon as you can. Walk with a friend or group, it’s more fun and you’ll not even realize you’ve walked a block-or even two!

After circling the block, it’s time to stretch those muscles and have a warm shower. If you’re really into it, you’ve worked up a sweat and have eliminated some toxins as well. It only takes about 20-30 minutes of consistent exercise for 5-6 days a week to make a difference in your body/brain. Vary it according to your likes and abilities, you’ll feel and look better for it.

After your workout eat a high protein/low carbohydrate breakfast, lunch or dinner like a smoothie with 12-20 grams of high quality protein powder (my favorite is Unicity Complete Vegan Vanilla) and almond or coconut milk. Have a couple of eggs, or 3-4 ozs of chicken or other good protein. Instead of bread, which will spike your glucose and insulin immediately, choose veggies, an apple, or celery with peanut or almond butter. Drink water.

Take your health in your own hands MOVE and unlock the many advantages that help keep your brain and body young, strong and healthy.

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