The Importance of Physical Fitness to Cognitive Health

Getting your body moving can help build strength, reduce the risk of falling and improve your mobility and joints.

And in addition to all the physical benefits, it can help you maintain your cognitive health.

A growing body of research is overwhelmingly showing that physical fitness has a strong correlation to cognitive health.

“Your brain is part of your body and is going to benefit from anything you do that is good for your general health,” said Dr. Sandra Weintraub, a neurologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in this New York Times article.

The sooner you start, the better. Studies show that people who were active as teens and stayed in shape as adults are in a better position to avoid cognitive decline in their later years. But even if you’re just getting started now there are still tangible benefits, as noted in the Times:

“Active people who are middle-aged or older also tend to perform better on tests of memory and thinking skills than people of the same age who rarely exercise, and are nearly half as likely eventually to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Almost as heartening, active people who do develop dementia usually show their first symptoms years later than inactive people do.”

Whether it’s walking, lifting weights, swimming, even doing housework, getting moving is the first step to helping maintain your cognitive health.

To that end, here are three tips to make your fitness program work for you:

Be Realistic

On January 1, there is no shortage of people who decide they’re going to run a marathon. But by December 31, how many have actually accomplished that goal?

Much like someone should train for a 5K before a marathon, the same goes your fitness routine. There are no shortcuts and no overnight remedies, it takes time and effort and it may be awhile before the gains become evident. But nothing in life worth having comes easy – so stick with it.

Mix It Up

Doing the same things over and over won’t help with your cognition. Sure, having a routine can help get you going, but you’re not challenging your brain if the workouts are repetitive.

The fitness regimens with the most success at helping with cognition are ones where you don’t get complacent, where there are new challenges to keep you on your toes – literally and figuratively.

Have Fun

More than anything, to keep a fitness routine going it helps to enjoy it, otherwise it becomes a chore. And if that happens, the odds of it going by the wayside increase.

Partnering with a friend or loved one helps – having someone join you builds in fun along with accountability. But try to find activities you look forward to taking part in, that are both challenging and enjoyable.

Fitness at Prestige

At Prestige, we have fitness programs tailored to the health of our residents’ bodies and minds. Ensuring our programs work the brain as well as the body is a priority for our teams.

When a new resident moves into a Prestige community, they undergo a full physical assessment to then be directed to an appropriate Energize Exercise class, where the workouts may be done seated, standing or a combination of both. Energize Exercise has a wide variety of components to it so that our residents’ brains are being exercised as much as their bodies.

We also run Ageless Grace®, a brain-body workout program that forces people to re-think how they perform certain activities as every exercise tool in the program is performed seated. For instance, in one element, residents extend their leg and then draw letters and words with it.

As the creator of Ageless Grace®, Denise Medved, notes on her website, the program allows for “Brain-body directives that encourage the brain to consciously choose and direct the movement of the body in either a random or specific sequence.”

To learn more about our fitness programs and how they help with the cognitive health of our residents, contact the Prestige community nearest you. You might even be able to join in a class to experience it for yourself.