May 25 was National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Being a card carrying AARP member (you get that at age 50 now) and as a person who is a little bit fanatical about fitness, this caught my eye. So whether you celebrated Fitness Day or not, here are some of the reasons this matters to me, and should to you, too…
1) Neurogenesis. I love the idea that if we do the right things we can actually create new brain cells, not just keep losing the cells that die with aging. In the February 8, 2016 issue of Science Daily, researchers reported that running or other sustained aerobic exercises actually help build new neurons in the part of the brain that controls learning and managing complex tasks. That’s great news for those of us who need to continue to build those skills and who value life-long learning and pursuits.
2) Heart health equals brain health. If you, like me, have watched the devastation that dementia can cause on the individual and the family, you probably read everything you can on how to keep your own brain healthy. Good news for us all: the things we do to keep our hearts healthy – regular, moderate-intensity exercise and healthy eating – also benefit good health for our brain. A recent CNN article points out that, “What benefits the body benefits the brain…You are not a separate brain walking around on top of a body.”
3) Exercise is a natural anti-depressant. The American Psychological Association has been recommending that its members include a prescription for physical exercise in addition to other forms of therapy for patients with depression and anxiety for a number of years now. James Blumenthal, the primary researcher in a landmark study on depression and exercise in 2007, shares his finding: “Exercise… was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder.”1
4) Got a challenge? Exercise will help solve it. I’ve found for me personally that my long morning walks were essential to solving my greatest challenges in growing a business. In the early days of my company, key members of my team would come to fear those mornings when I’d pop into the office, out of breath and sweaty, saying, “I’ve got a great idea!” They knew the idea would be something that would require research and, if genuinely a great idea, a fair bit of work to put into place. So I wasn’t really surprised when the folks studying human neuroscience found that people who exercise are, in general more creative.
So here’s to National Senior (and everyone else’s) Health and Fitness Day. It may be past for this year, but in your life and mine, it’s really an everyday event.
1 (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007).