The Importance of Exercise for Seniors

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Benefits of Exercise For Seniors 230x300 - The Importance of Exercise for SeniorsExercise has countless benefits for those of all ages, including a healthier heart, stronger bones and improved flexibility. For seniors, there are additional benefits, like the fact that regular exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases, lowers the chance of injury and can even improve one’s mood.

As we age, our muscle mass begins to decrease.  When we enter our forties, adults can lose 3-5% of muscle mass with each subsequent decade of life.  Muscle is an essential contributor to our balance and bone strength; it keeps us strong.  Without it, our mobility and independence become compromised.

Exercise is also a key for cognitive function. Scientists have found that brain neurons- the special cells that perform all the necessary function to keep you alive, as well as help you think and improve your memory- all increase after a few weeks of regular exercise.  In fact, some researchers found that when individuals walk three or more times a week, the occurrence of dementia was 35% lower than those seniors who were not involved in any type of physical activity.

Key Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

Some of the key benefits of exercise for seniors are:

  • Improved healing and function – Regular exercise by seniors may decrease the time it takes for a wound to heal by 25%.  Also, a healthy, strong body can better fight off infection and makes recovery from illness or injury easier.
  • Prevention of disease or chronic conditions – According to the National Institute of Aging, exercising as a senior may delay or even prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease and osteoporosis, just to name a few.
  • Increased balance and stability – Falls are the number one injury among seniors, and regular exercise can help prevent them.  Falling leads to injuries like broken hips or other bones, and exercise is a key component to improve functional reach and balance.
  • Improved quality of life and increased life expectancy – New studies have found that seniors who exercise improve not only their physical fitness but experienced psychological benefits as well.  Exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve the mood in general.  The increased mobility that comes from regular, moderate exercise can help a senior maintain his or her independence if it is done on a long-term basis.  Consistency is more important than intensity.

It is never too late for seniors to start engaging in a regular exercise routine.  The key is to find something you enjoy doing, and start at a level that is easy to maintain.

Get Active! Exercise is Important for Seniors

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safe exercises for seniors 300x200 - Get Active! Exercise is Important for SeniorsMany seniors recognize the importance of incorporating exercise into their daily lives, but might be skeptical that they are physically able to do so. Perhaps you think you’re too old and frail, or don’t know what types of exercises are safe for seniors of your age. You might be worried about injuring yourself and don’t know where to start. It doesn’t make a difference what age you are, or your current physical condition; regular exercise will be beneficial to your health. A senior who has an exercise routine will feel more energetic, be more independent and their symptoms of pain or illness will be better managed. Plus, exercise is good for your mood, mind and memory! Starting a regular exercise routine doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the gym or do strenuous, heart-pounding workouts.  Start slowly, adding more activity into your life in small ways, even if it means simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking at the far end of the parking lot. At American Senior Communities, we offer our New Energy Wellness program to improve your current fitness level. When you join, you’ll have access to Nautilus 2ST equipment and a Health Promotion Coordinator to help you achieve your fitness goals.

Types of Safe Exercises for Seniors

There are three main types of exercises that are safe and beneficial to seniors. Make sure you get clearance from your doctor before starting a routine, and build up your workouts little by little. Stick to it so you start to feel like exercise is more of a habit than a chore. Mix up your routine so you don’t get bored by blending these three types of exercises below:

  • Cardio/Aerobic/Endurance Exercises – These exercises use large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a specified period of time and get your heart rate up and your breathing faster. These exercises, which include walking, swimming, hiking and cycling, help promote independence because they improve your endurance for daily tasks like house cleaning and running errands.
  • Strength/Resistance and Power Training – Strength training uses repetitive motions to strengthen your muscles. These exercises are beneficial because they help prevent loss of bone mass and improve your balance- both of which are key to mobility and avoiding falls.
  • Stretching/Flexibility Exercises – Stretching helps warm up your muscles before a workout and cool them down when you are done. Better flexibility means less muscle soreness and stiffness, and stretching helps maintain your flexibility. If your muscles are loose and supple they are less prone to injury, and you’ll have a better overall range of motion.

It’s never too late to start exercising! Whether you are healthy or managing an illness or injury, exercise is important to implement into your lifestyle.

Exercise Tips for the Elderly

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Exercise is crucial for seniors to maintain good health. Seniors are encouraged to first have a discussion about exercise with their physician and follow their advice.

In general, experts recommend seniors exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 times per week to see benefits in musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary function, as well as an improvement in perceived well-being and enhanced quality of life.

Why is it important for older adults to stay active?

Staying active can certainly reduce incidences of premature death due to chronic diseases, such as stroke, heart attack and diabetes.  There is also ample evidence bone density increases with exercise, which can help prevent osteoporosis.  Improved agility, mobility and independence are also significant benefits to staying active.  Exercise can also assist with sleeping disorders and depression.

What exercises are most beneficial in the elderly? 

Exercises that simultaneously address balance and strengthening are particularly important for seniors.  The National Institute of Health estimates over 300,000 fractured hips are reported each year; the majority is due to decreased balance resulting in falls. Balance is an important area to focus on. Standing exercises incorporating hip, knee and ankle strengthening are extremely beneficial.  Tai Chi is a great example of this type of activity.

What exercise programs help older adults stay active?

New Energy Wellness (NEW) is a unique program offered by American Senior Communities designed to improve current fitness level and give older adults more energy. Research based with proven results, this strength building program offers adults age 50 and older the ability to enjoy more active lives and to simply feel better.

Offered to both residents and the community, the New Energy Wellness program exposes seniors to a series of exercise programs designed to build balance, vigor and ability in everyday life.

How effective are those programs?

Everyone benefits from exercise.  Exercise is extremely effective in reducing fall risk and allows seniors to maintain a higher level of overall independence with a significant reduction in hospital admissions due to falls, stroke, fractures, blood sugar issues and other acute medical events. Participants also benefit from increased stair-climbing power and increased circulation, coordination, muscle mass and bone density.

Other benefits of exercise include improved posture and balance and increased gait. There is also a reduction in edema and fatigue. Exercise also enhances breathing and the ability to sit and stand straight. There is improved use of hands while the ability to lift, handle and manipulate objects is enhanced.

What are some easy exercises older adults can do at home?

Exercise can help older people remain independent.  It also helps in recovery from illness and it reduces the risk of disease. Some exercise tips for the elderly include: Walking, dancing, cycling, swimming are all good forms of exercise which also allow participants to socialize with others. Weight training is also good. Doing chores, like sweeping or cleaning windows, also exercises the body.   Gardening is another good exercise seniors can enjoy.


Exercise for Arthritis Sufferers

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bigstock Active Senior 2346789 300x199 - Exercise for Arthritis SufferersIf you suffer from arthritis, you may be under the impression that exercise could escalate your symptoms and pain.  But there are many types of exercise for arthritis sufferers that can actually alleviate your pain and improve your quality of life.

Research has shown that exercise can help decrease joint pain and stiffness, along with improving your flexibility, mobility and even your mood! Regular exercise may in fact be one of the best ways to manage your arthritis pain. Still, arthritis is a common reason seniors give for limiting their physical activities. But inactivity can lead to even more problems, such as poor balance, weak muscles and stiff joints.

As always, before starting any new exercise program, check first with your physician and get approval to move forward. Think about your daily tasks that may become hindered by your arthritis pain.  People with arthritis who exercise regularly will have less pain, improved sleep and more energy.  The key is to start off slowly with a few low intensity exercises.

Helpful and Safe Exercises for Arthritis

Here are five great exercises for seniors with arthritis:

1)      Swimming/Aquatic Exercise: This aerobic form of exercise will improve heart, lung and muscle function, and for those with arthritis, it’s one of the best ways to get benefits for weight control, sleep and mood. The buoyancy of water will help keep weight off joints and muscles and build strength.

2)      Strength/Resistance Training: Resistance training is a good exercise for knee arthritis, and has the ability to improve muscle strength, and alleviate pain. As muscles become stronger, they provide better joint support and help reduce stress throughout your painful joints. At American Senior Communities, strength and resistance training is offered through the New Energy Wellness program.

3)      Walking: Walking is another aerobic exercise, and it can help reinforce bone density because you are placing your full body weight on top of your bones and joints. Like swimming, walking also strengthens your heart, lungs and overall endurance. A daily walk can help alleviate symptoms of arthritis, and all you need to do is step outside and enjoy the fresh air!

4)      Yoga/Tai Chi: Both yoga and tai chi are considered body awareness forms of exercise. This type of exercise can help improve posture, balance, coordination and relaxation, as well as joint position sense (proprioception). These exercises are low impact and can be done alone or in a social setting. Just be careful not to hyper-flex joints during yoga- it’s best to find an instructor who specializes in yoga for arthritis patients.

5)      Golfing: Yes, playing golf can actually help with arthritis pain! The Arthritis Foundation even says that golfing enhances the strength and mobility of both your upper and lower extremities.  Not only that, but the sport also improves your balance, coordination and range of motion.  So don’t be afraid to get out there and hit the green!

Exercise is so important for seniors, and there are many safe ways to go about staying active as you age. Once exercise is built into your daily routine, you’ll find yourself feeling healthier and more alert- and you’ll be in less pain, too.


Feel Young Again! Maintaining an Active and Healthy Lifestyle

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bigstock Senior couple on country bike 23668784 300x200 - Feel Young Again! Maintaining an Active and Healthy LifestyleGrowing older means experiencing life changes. Children leave home, you enter your retirement years, and you start noticing physical changes to your body. Handling all these changes in a positive manner is the key to a healthy and active lifestyle for seniors.

Exercise and good nutrition habits are also important. Here are tips for leading a healthy lifestyle:

Tips for a Healthy and Active Lifestyle for Seniors

1)      Plan a healthy diet. Decreased metabolism, slower digestion, and changes in taste and smell might affect your appetite. It’s vital to eat healthy to maintain your energy and overall health. Eat a variety of foods, including:

  • Protein: Needed to maintain and rebuild muscles. Poultry, fish and eggs are low-fat choices.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy. You can get the carbohydrates you need from fruit, veggies and grains.
  • Fat: Fat also provides energy. Try to get most of your fat from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. You can choose from less fatty meats, and use olive oil when cooking.
  • Water: It cannot be stressed enough to drink plenty of water. Older adults are prone to dehydration, and without enough water you are not going to be as sharp or energetic.

2)      Exercise daily. Most aging adults don’t get enough physical activity because they might be worried about injury or be self-conscious about going to a gym. But did you know that it’s more dangerous not to exercise? Exercise helps you maintain your strength and agility, helps prevent falls and injury, diminishes chronic pain, and can even make your feel better mentally. To get started with an exercise routine you should:

  • Check with your doctor to see if there are any physical limitations you should be aware of.
  • Find an activity you enjoy, like golfing or walking. If you enjoy an activity you’re more apt to continue with it.
  • Do 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Start slow to build your endurance – your daily 30 minutes can be broken into 10 minute intervals throughout the day.
  • Add in flexibility and strength exercises. If your muscles aren’t being used they are at risk of wasting away.
  • Know your limits! Don’t push yourself too hard. If you feel dizzy or get chest pains, ease up on the activity immediately and call your doctor if you’re concerned.

3)      Maintain routine doctor appointments.  Get an annual exam and screenings for disease like cancer and osteoporosis. Remember that early detection is the key to fighting most diseases!

4)      Stay social! Staying healthy also involves keeping busy and maintaining relationships with friends and family. You can join a club or travel, take a class or get involved in your community. Keep life exciting and ever-changing!


How to Stay Active during the Winter Months

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bigstock Older People Exercising In The 5708471 300x200 - How to Stay Active during the Winter MonthsMany seniors recognize the importance of incorporating some daily exercise into their lives, but this can be difficult when the weather makes it unpleasant, or even impossible, to go outside and be active.

However, the cold weather shouldn’t offer an excuse to plop yourself in your favorite chair in front of the television for the next several months. Even though the air outside is frightful, there are still plenty of ways to stay active and mobile throughout the winter.

Winter Exercise Ideas

Physical activity for seniors is vital to maintain a good quality of life. Exercise helps strengthen muscles and improve the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.  Regular activity also helps increase your stability, which is important to avoid falls that often lead to broken bones. Exercise will even help you heal faster and prevent some chronic diseases, like diabetes or osteoporosis.

So, what types of winter exercise can you take part in this season? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Join a gym: Obtaining a gym membership is a great idea not only because you will have access to all kinds of equipment, but also for the social aspect. With your doctor’s approval first, join a gym or fitness center where you can target and strengthen all parts of your body.
  • Take classes: Fitness classes for seniors are often available outside of gyms at senior centers. For example, American Senior Communities’ New Energy Wellness program is available to both residents and members of the community, and offers a way for seniors to learn how to stay active in everyday life through proper use of equipment and low-impact exercises. Or, find a local yoga, pilates or even a dance class.
  • Workout at home: Simply getting up out of your chair throughout the day and walking around the house can get your blood flowing and break up those long periods of time when you are sedentary. Walk around your home throughout every room, or if you live in an apartment building, walk up and down the hallways a few times.  Or, purchase a few workout DVDs.  There are thousands of fitness DVDs available for all ages and every type of exercise. You can spend one day doing some light aerobics and the next day stretching and doing yoga, all from the comfort of your living room!
  • Swimming: Many gyms or your local YMCA have indoor pools available to the public. Swimming is a fantastic, low impact workout for seniors, and you don’t need to wait for a hot, sunny day to enjoy an indoor pool.
  • Try some video games: You may need your grandkids’ help with this, but try a video game system like the WiiFit or PlayStation Move that offers another way to get active in your own home. Games like bowling and tennis are sure to help you start moving, and these games are a great way to get others involved, too.

Of course, you can always be brave, bundle up and enjoy a brisk walk in the wintry weather. Just make sure your path is clear of snow and ice before you attempt that stroll down the snowy street! Or, have a snowball fight with your grandchildren. You’ll have so much fun you won’t even realize you’re cold- and that you’re getting in a good workout!

However you choose to stay active this winter, make sure you remember that safety comes first. If you stay active, hydrated, eat and sleep well, and you’ll feel healthy no matter what the season.


Healthy Weight Management for Seniors

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bigstock Senior Man Doing Press Ups In 13917968 300x200 - Healthy Weight Management for SeniorsAccording to the CDC, over 35% of adults in the United States age 60 or older are obese. This number is sadly expected to rise even more as the Baby Boomer generation become senior citizens, too.

One problem is that our metabolisms start to slow down as we grow older, due to the fact that while our body fat increases, our muscle mass decreases. This can start as early as our 20s. Plus, when you exercise in your 50s, 60s and 70s you don’t burn as many calories as you did during your younger years. However, major weight gain is certainly not a normal part of the aging process, and if you aren’t observing healthy weight management, you could be putting your health at risk.

Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to healthy aging. Proper weight management should be a lifelong goal and as you age, you should be following the same healthy lifestyle as you did in your younger years.

Senior Weight Management Tips

Studies have shown that it’s important for seniors who are attempting to lose weight to not only eat a healthy diet, but to exercise regularly, too. Exercise will burn calories, as well as help build and maintain muscle.  The types of exercise health experts recommend for seniors are:

  • Aerobic exercise. Getting your heart rate up through aerobic exercises like walking, biking, swimming or low-impact aerobics can improve cardiovascular function, quality of sleep, and enhance your immune system on top of helping you lose extra pounds.
  • Strength and/or resistance training. Help preserve lean muscle and bone density or even regain lost muscle by utilizing light weights, resistance bands or medicine balls. Start with lower repetitions and work your way up.
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises. Flexibility decreases as you age, so stretching is an important step in your workout as it helps warm up and cool down your muscles.

Seniors should try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week. If you’re just starting out with an exercise regimen, you can break your activities up into ten minute segments.

Along with regular exercise, obviously the next step is to adjust your eating habits. First, know how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis. Your doctor can help you with this, but as an example, women over age 50 who are moderately active need about 1,600 to 1,800 calories per day. Your needs can vary based on several factors, like physical activity, current muscle mass, and even genetics. Cutting back calories will help you lose weight, but you want to avoid cutting out too many to avoid getting fatigued and even slowing down your metabolism further.

Changing the types of food you eat is important, too. Choosing healthy foods like fruits and veggies over sugary or salty snacks, whole grains over white flour, getting adequate calcium and incorporating lean proteins will give you more energy and help you stay healthy. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. As you age, your sense of thirst can diminish and make it difficult for you to remember to get the proper intake of water to avoid dehydration.

When you begin your healthy weight management routine, remember that the main goal is to get and stay fit, not necessarily to drop a major amount of weight all at once.


Yoga for Seniors

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bigstock Two Women Doing Yoga Workout A 76765064 300x191 - Yoga for SeniorsAs we age, it’s important to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. With a regular exercise routine, seniors will feel more energetic and can help manage the aches and pains that come with aging. This leads to a more independent life where you’re staying safer and feeling your best.

Yoga has been called one of the best forms of exercise for older adults. Over time and with the proper classes, seniors can improve their flexibility and balance, enhance their strength and boost their mood.

Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Retirement is the perfect time to try some new things and pick up some healthier habits you may not have had time to consider in your working years. If you’ve never tried yoga before, check out a class and experience some of the benefits of yoga for seniors like:

  • Strengthened bones. Yoga for seniors can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become brittle or weak. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone can’t keep up with the decrease of bone mass and density that occurs with aging.
  • Reduced stress. Yoga offers a relaxing way to let go of the tension you’re holding in your body, especially in your shoulders and upper back. It’s been known to help relieve some of the stresses that lead to hypertension, which in turn leads to not needing as many medications on a daily basis. Yoga also helps reduce anxiety, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and helping you breathe easier.
  • Improved sleeping habits. Because yoga for seniors can be so relaxing, many individuals report that they are sleeping longer and more soundly, which can often be an issue for older adults.
  • Enhanced balance, flexibility, mobility and strength. The slow, measured movements involved with yoga poses can lead to better balance and movement, which can also help prevent falls. As falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors, yoga helps provide the tools you need to improve your mobility so you can get around more safely.
  • Lessen the risk for depression. Yoga is a mood-booster; the combination of movement, breathing and meditation can create an overall sense of well-being. Plus, because yoga is done in a class setting with your peers, you’re getting the benefit of staying socially active, as well.
  • Alleviate aches and pains. Even if you have some physical limitations, yoga can help ease the aches and pains associated with aging. Yoga can be especially beneficial to those suffering from osteoarthritis, teaching you how to breathe and relax through any chronic pain you may be dealing with.

If you’re interested in trying out a yoga class, make sure you do a little research before you jump right into it. Many senior centers offer yoga especially for older adults, and these instructors will be well-versed in the techniques most beneficial to seniors.

Try a gentle class for beginners and if any of the poses are uncomfortable or lead to pain, know your limits. No matter what your current fitness level is, seniors can benefit from yoga every bit as much as younger adults.


The Best Balance Exercises for Seniors

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bigstock Full length portrait of a happ 61815521 1 200x300 - The Best Balance Exercises for SeniorsWhether a senior is struggling with health problems like arthritis, decreased muscle mass, low or high blood pressure, heart disease, or other issues like side effects from prescription medications, practicing daily balance exercises can help you stay steadier on your feet. Being able to maintain your balance will help decrease your risk of falling, and this is important because falls are the number one cause of accidental injury among seniors. Senior falls can lead to hip fractures or other broken bones, as well as a long recovery period.

Injuries can also lead to other issues like social isolation and depression. Once you start incorporating some specific balance exercises for seniors into your daily routine, you’ll notice that your stability has improved and you’ll probably even feel better, both physically and mentally! The best part is that there are plenty of easy balance exercises older adults can practice right from the comfort of your own home.

Senior Balance Exercises to Enhance Stability

If you’re first starting out with a new workout routine, it’s recommended to talk to your doctor and make sure you get the go ahead to start improving your stability. Start off slowly, or even have a friend or family member monitor your first few workouts until you are more secure on your feet.

Taking part in the following balance exercises every day will help enhance your physical condition and decrease your risk of falling:

  • A brief warmup. Do some light stretches and march in place for three minutes or so to get your heart rate elevated. Before you begin any exercise, warming up beforehand will help loosen your joints and prepare your muscles for activity.
  • Heel-to-toe walk. Follow the length of a wall if you need some extra support starting off this balance exercise. Lightly place your hand on the wall and step forward with your right foot. As you shift your weight forward, place your left foot in front of your right, with the heel of your left foot touching the toes on your right foot. Repeat this for 20 steps. As you progress with this exercise, try it going backwards and forwards.
  • Back and side leg raises. These exercises not only help your balance, but they can build strength and muscle, too. Stand behind a chair for support. For back leg raises, slowly lift one leg straight behind you without bending your knee. Hold for a second or two, then lower your leg. Repeat on the opposite side and do about 15 reps on each. For side leg raises, stand with your legs slightly apart. Lift one leg out to the side, keeping your back straight and your toes pointing forward. Hold for a second, lower your leg and repeat on the opposite side, completing 15 reps.
  • Flamingo pose. Hold on to the back of a sturdy chair for support and balance. Lift one foot and hold the position for ten seconds. Repeat this 10 to 15 times. Then, do the same thing with your other leg. As you gain more stability, try holding the position for longer lengths of time. You can ultimately let go of the back of the chair and even try crossing your arms over your chest as you stand on one foot.

Besides these home exercises, you can consider joining the New Energy Wellness Program at American Senior Communities, where you’ll be exposed to a variety of exercise programs designed to build balance and improve your abilities in everyday life.


How Exercise Can Positively Affect your Brain

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You should think of your brain as a muscle. Like other muscles in your body, the brain needs to get used often so it stays strong and limber. There are a number of brain exercises you can do to improve your memory and slow cognitive impairment, but did you know that physical exercise can also have a positive impact on the brain?

A number of studies have been conducted showing the positive correlation between exercise and brain health. Since memory decline is one of the major concerns of most aging adults, it’s important to pay attention to these findings.

Exercise and Brain Health

Experts have said that physical exercise may be one of the most cost-effective and beneficial ways aging adults can boost their memory performance. Exercise increases heart rate, which leads to more oxygen being pumped to the brain. It also helps release a variety of hormones that can provide a nourishing environment to promote the growth of new brain cells.

In general, any type of exercise that is good for your heart is good for your brain. Running, for instance, gives an antidepressant-like effect known as a “runner’s high,” which has been associated with new cell growth in the hippocampus, the key region of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the best physical exercise for the brain involves activities that integrate both physical and mental aspects, like dancing. Dancing requires rhythm and coordination, along with memory for getting the steps in the right order.

Positive Effects of Physical Exercise for the Brain

Exercise not only keeps your body toned, but keeps your mind sharp and active, too. Here are just a few ways exercise and brain health go hand in hand:

  • Memory improvement: Since exercise increases blood flow to the brain, your memory gets a good boost. A recent study showed that after exercising, participants did about 15 percent better on memory and attention tasks. Aerobic exercise can even repair damaged brain cells!
  • Reducing stress: Exercise can help prepare you for the normal stresses in your day and help you react better in tense situations. When you’re feeling anxious and stressed out, get to the gym and work off those nerves.
  • Alleviating depression: Exercising not only can boost your memory, but it can boost your mood, too. Researchers found that exercise can treat major depressive disorders almost as well as medications. Adding daily exercise into your life can bring antidepressant effects to those suffering from depression.
  • Staying focused on your goals: When you start an exercise plan, it requires focus and determination to see results. Once you see results, you may develop an ability to follow through with other tasks, too – especially those that require long-term effort.

Get started with an exercise routine as soon as possible to see the benefits on your body and your brain. You’ll feel better physically and mentally, and can start to reduce the concerns you have about memory loss and decreased cognitive function.