"Treat the disease, you win some, you lose some. Treat the patient, you always win."
~Patch Adams~

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How exercise revs brainpower

Happy 2014! I hope your year has gotten off to a good start.  My thoughts are with those of you in the path of the winter storm heading to the Northeast; I have friends in Chicago and they said it was pretty rough there yesterday.  One of my friends who works in a school near Syracuse, NY had an unexpected extension of her holiday break, and believe me when I tell you it has to be pretty bad in that area for schools to close.

Here in Charlotte, the first "real" morning of the New Year was very cloudy, chilly and gloomy.  I had to literally talk myself into going to the gym this morning; my back and hip are very painful today and I could easily have stayed in my jammies and in bed (something I do not do, by the way).  I did get to the gym, and although I had to modify my workout to accommodate my endurance and pain level, I did manage to do some time on the recumbent bike and a few weight machines.  I'm done whining, now, thank you for listening.

I brought up the topic of exercise because I found this interesting piece in the Charlotte Observer about the cognitive benefits of exercise.  The physical benefits of exercise are pretty obvious to everyone, but exercises effect on the brain is often overlooked.  I've been working out regularly now for about nine years, and I like to think that it, along with my hormonal optimization and healthier eating has improved my cognitive functioning and concentration.  As I have said many times, I am not setting any records in the gym; most of what I do are exercises prescribed for me by a physical therapist to keep my joints mobile and to maintain bone strength.  Core strength is critical for me, and when I miss a few weeks of exercise (like I did when I broke my arm this summer) my back and hip make me crazy.  I have a friend who is an excellent example of exercise benefiting cognitive function; I've seen him hugely scattered and distracted before a workout, and after a session with his trainer, he comes back focused and ready to tackle whatever task is at hand.

I am not one of those people who hops/crawls out of bed in the morning and can't wait to get to the gym.  I have a hard time understanding those who really enjoy working out, but to each his/her own.  I go because I know it's healthy, that I have to keep my back and joints as strong as possible, and to maintain bone and cardiac health.  If exercising regularly is on your list of goals for 2014 (good for you)-----find something you like to do.  Don't forget that it's important to combine aerobic exercise (water aerobics, walking, treadmill) with some sort of strength training.  Ideally that strength training would be with weights, I use a few weight machines at the gym and have a set of very light weights for home use.  Water aerobics is my preferred cardio activity now; I used to love to walk but right now that exacerbates the issues in my back and hip.  You might find it helpful to have an exercise buddy (I don't, but know a lot of the ladies at the gym).  If you have health issues (and who doesn't at this age), check with your doctor to see what exercise is safe for you to do, and if necessary, ask for a referral to a physical therapist to help you design an exercise program to reach your fitness goals safely.

I'm off to rest with a heating pad for a little while, I don't sleep but am sorting through my newsfeeds to find other interesting articles to share with you.  Enjoy the rest of your day, and stay warm!