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KEEP BRAIN, BODY STRONG

If you are already moving — swimming, jogging, dancing or anything else that has the potential for developing into an aerobic activity — keep it up! Some interesting studies give No. 1 "brain sharpener" status to aerobic exercise. Professor Donald Stuss, Ph.D., of the Ontario Brain Institute says, "The best advice I can give to keep your brain healthy and young is aerobic exercise." Continuous research is focused on the exercise and brain connection, which is no surprise given current studies that share some of the direct and indirect memory benefits of daily aerobic exercise: Exercise alters the brain in a way that offers protection to our memory and learning skills.

Our brains actually begin slowing down around age 30, and it was once believed that when we lost those brain cells, they were forever gone. The latest research tells us that is not true. We now know that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, stimulates the growth of new brain cells and increases the connections between brain cells. It also increases heart rate, which means more oxygen is being pumped to the brain.

Exercise is as good for your brain as it is for the rest of your body.

There are other ways to combat aging as well. Among them:

Create change: Occasionally, make small changes to the things you are continually doing the same way. If you always walk around the block in the same direction, try walking the opposite way. If you have an exercise routine, mix it up.

Socialize: Isolation kills slowly. You needn't be a social butterfly, however. Just 10 minutes of social interaction stimulates brain cells, including cells in the memory areas of the brain.

Get mental stimulation: Keep learning and introducing new activities. Step out of the box and challenge yourself. Include any mentally stimulating activity that you might enjoy and that requires you to focus on what you are doing. For me, it's taking piano lessons as a true beginner.

Eat well: Include color in your menu. Colorful fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidants that help fight the free radicals that attack the neurons in our brains.

Manage stress: Long-term stress produces the stress hormone cortisol, which has been known to cause premature brain aging. Exercise and relaxation techniques help to protect your brain from the debilitating effects of stress.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

m Strength (lunge with medicine ball rotations): This exercise targets the abs and lower body and helps with balance.

Holding a medicine ball or a weight close to the chest, step forward with your right leg into a lunge position, right knee bent and left leg to the back. Without moving your lower body, rotate your torso, bringing your arms about shoulder level across the body to the right side. Return to center and rotate to the left side. Repeat 8 to 10 times on each side. Change legs, stepping forward with left leg, and repeat the movements 8 to 10 times on each side.

. Cardio (ropeless jump rope): This exercise gives you the cardio benefits without the interruptions of starting and stopping when you trip up.

You can jog through the workout, bounce or simply march in place. When you use the standard arm movements, remember to move from the elbows, not the shoulders.

n Stress relief (deep breathing meditation): The key to this type of relaxation is deep breathing from the abdomen instead of shallow chest breathing, which we tend to do daily. This exercise can tell you if you are breathing abdominally.

Lying on your back with your knees bent, or sitting in a chair with a straight back, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. When you take a deep, slow inhale through the nose, the hand on your stomach should rise as the inhalation expands the abdomen, while the hand on your chest should move very little. As you exhale through your mouth, which should be slower than the inhale, the hand on your stomach should move in as your abdominals contract and the hand on your chest should remain virtually still. Just relax for five or 10 minutes.

KEEP BRAIN, BODY STRONG 08/22/16 [Last modified: Monday, August 22, 2016 10:15am]
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