Leading a physically active lifestyle has many benefits – healthy weight management, an efficient heart, healthy lungs, and an overall sense of well-being – but what about our brains? When people think about fitness, they generally focus on the external impact exercise has on their body image. Yet staying active is one of the biggest boosts you can give your brain.
Alzheimer’s Disease – a progressive disease of the brain that impacts memory, thinking and behaviour – affects 35 million people and their families around the world. The exact causes of Alzheimer’s are not known, but researchers have identified risk factors including aging, genetics and existing conditions associated with the disease. Symptoms of the disease usually develop slowly and can include loss of memory, difficulty with day-to-day tasks, and changes in mood and behaviour. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can also have a significant impact on the physical and emotional health of the caregiver.
As the number of people living with Alzheimer’s rises sharply each year, there is a huge push in the research community to identify effective prevention and treatment strategies. Recent research from the Ontario Brain Institute suggests a positive correlation between exercise and long-term brain health. The report discusses how “incorporating at least 30 minutes of physical activity, 3 times a week, can help to prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms and slow down or even reverse the process of deterioration.”
Exercise is a key part of maintaining good blood flow to the brain as it enhances your body’s circulation. Improved circulation means more oxygen gets to your brain, regardless of cognitive impairment. More oxygen slows brain tissue deterioration and encourages new brain cells to develop. Of course, the added bonus of regular exercise lies in its power to reduce stress, elevate mood, improve memory and boost energy. What more can you ask for?
Add variety to your workout – You’re more likely to stay motivated and keep active if you’re interested. Try a new activity or rediscover one you haven’t done in a while. There are lots of activities to choose from like brisk walking, running, swimming, rollerblading, and dancing. Your body will thank you for the challenge.
Make small changes to your workout routine – Never underestimate the impact a small change can have on your overall health. Try taking the stairs one or two flights instead of the elevator. Or choose the farthest parking spot from your destination, so you can take in some more steps.
Exercise is a social activity – Make exercise fun by inviting your family members, friends and colleagues to check out a new fitness class, go for a brisk walk at lunch or after dinner. These fitness buddies will hold you accountable and make sure you stay committed. You’ll also find that this tip keeps boredom at bay and makes time pass quickly!
Commit to your fitness regime – Consider exercise as a priority. Include your daily walks and activities in your calendar to ensure that you make regular physical activity an essential part of your weekly routine. You can also try setting reminders on your computer or cell phone. This will help you avoid making excuses and keep you committed to a healthy active lifestyle!
Fitness Coach Connects keeps you on track with three free sessions with a professional Fitness Coach, Fitbit™ wireless activity tracker and an online program. Fitness Coach Connects is now available through your Employee and Family Assistance Program. For more information, call 1 866 833-7690 or visit workhealthlife.com.