Here’s a riddle: What scares nearly every young person, but nearly all of them want to achieve it? Old age! As the body and the brain get older, people can predict they will begin to weaken, both mentally and physically and that is scary, but most of us want to live as long as possible so long as we are relatively healthy. There is something people can do that can help make the transition from middle age to elderly less stressful and perhaps less scary for many people.
There was a large study that examined women who were 65 years old and older. Some of the women were physically active and some were not. The women who were physically active showed the least decline in their cognitive abilities by the end of the study compared to women who did little or no physical exercise. In a similar study, men who were 71 years old or older and walked less than a quarter of a mile a day were twice as likely to develop dementia compared to men who did not walk that far.
Dr. Ronald Peterson reported for the Mayo Clinic that exercising for 30-60 minutes several times a week could help elderly people continue to improve memory, reasoning, judgment, and thinking skills for those who suffer from mild Alzhermer's disease diagnoses, or mild cognitive impairment. In another piece of positive news, Dr. Peterson also reported that regular exercise can help delay the start of Alzheimer’s disease for people who are considered, for various genetic or other reasons, to be in danger of developing the disease.
Regular exercise and physical activity helps the brain by keeping blood flowing, and perhaps just as importantly, by increasing certain chemicals that protect the brain that would otherwise not be there without exercise. Those involved with senior care should know that as the body ages, there are normally fewer connections made in the brain, regular physical activity can prevent some of the reduction of those connections. Keeping the elderly active keeps them sharp.
It is also worth remembering that regular exercise also benefits the overall health of the body. Increased muscle tone, a healthy metabolism, as well as burning unnecessary calories all benefit people of any age, including people who age. It seems that as long as people are physically able, there is much more to gain by remaining active than to lose.