Exercising over the weekend was a test of endurance for me and most of the people I saw outside. The weather was hot and humid, so whether you were attacking the garden in advance of the coming rain, or running a personal marathon, people were exhausted and sweaty. I call this an exercise cleanse. In my case, I built my own personal triathlon. On Friday, I went to the neighborhood pool and swam for about 30-45 minutes. I felt great. The next day I pulled the bicycle out of the basement and went on a ride that turned out to be nine miles. The humidity was increasing, but we brought water, and decided to tough it out. By Sunday, our local town happened to host a community race that is five miles long, and since I had already signed up for it months ago, I said “OK let’s do this”. By that morning the humidity was brutal and no rain in sight. I chose to walk the entire race rather than run, as others did, which gave me the distinct honor of being the official “end of the race” participant. I even met a senior citizen who told me he used to run the race when he lived in our town and was younger. Since he’s moved and not participated in years, he asked me if I would mind letting him walk ahead so he would not be the last participant. I laughed and said sure. What chutzpah, even for an old guy.
I am now spending this next week in recovery which leads me to ask the question just how much exercise do we really need? According to a few studies that have come out lately while working on Alzheimer assignment, exercise is a key ingredient to healthy aging.
Exercise helps delay the onset of Alzheimer’s-Participating in aerobic exercise and strength training for at least 40 minutes to 1 hour per day consisting of walking, running, biking, swimming or other activity produces chemicals in the brain that are neuroprotective. This means that exercise stimulates the good chemicals and enzymes in brains cells that protect against the sludge-like deposits called beta amyloids from depositing on your brain cells and pathways.
Think of tarter on your teeth. Beta-amyloids plaques, act like that plaster-looking buildup, tarter, that covers your teeth. When you forget to get your teeth cleaned, at the dentist, your gums may start to swell and bleed from bacteria build up and inflammation. A similar situation may be going on in your brain. Inflammation from poor diet and lack of exercise discourages the positive chemicals necessary to keep the inflammation away.
Exercise after age 65 can help keep you active-After the age of 40 we lose 3%-5% muscle mass each decade. Muscles keep you strong and support your bones, muscle cells contain mitochondria which are the energy burning furnaces that keep our blood glucose at healthy levels to control inflammation. And perhaps, most importantly, muscles help maintain our balance so that we may remain in an independent lifestyle. Exercise everyday combined with strength training at least once per week is essential to healthy living. The good news is that you can build muscle at any age, even if you have been sedentary for many years. A safe, physician approved for your health situation, exercise program can really bring back lost vitality.