How to Reduce Risk Factors for Dementia

One of the disadvantages of getting old is the increased risk of dementia. We find ourselves forgetting things that once would have been a normal part of recall. But there are things you can do to help reduce the risk of dementia. These include keeping active, eating healthily and exercising your mind.

Keeping Active: It is a common belief that aerobic exercise, in and of itself, is sufficient to help maintain cognitive abilities. It is certainly beneficial, but research has shown that incorporating different forms of exercise stimulates different parts of the brain. A comprehensive exercise program is the most effective way to reap maximum cognitive benefits from exercise. Each workout should include aerobic exercise, both moderate and higher intensity. But the workout regimen should also include coordination exercises, resistance training, balance exercises, flexibility exercises, and strength and agility exercises. This combination of exercises has been shown to improve neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to regenerate neurons lost through the aging process or trauma. The brain is a remarkable thing and stimulating all spheres of the brain is the best way to keep it in shape.

Healthy Eating: A balanced diet can also help to prevent the onset of dementia. Some simple rules are to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day:  eat proteins at least twice a week; limit the intake of sugar and salt; eat less saturated fats; and stay adequately hydrated. A commonsense approach to eating can prove extremely beneficial without the stress of “dieting.” It is also important to not smoke! Smoking can restrict the flow of blood to the body, which is a bad thing!

Exercising Your Mind: Keeping your mind active is likely to reduce your risk of dementia. Regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease. One way to think about it is ‘Use it or lose it’.

Find something you like doing that challenges your brain and do it regularly. It’s important to find something that you’ll keep up. For example:

  • hand-eye coordination exercises
  • learn a new language
  • do puzzles, crosswords or quizzes
  • play card games or board games
  • read challenging books or write (fiction or non-fiction).

Talking and communicating with other people may also help to reduce your risk of dementia. Make an effort to keep in touch with the people who are important to you, such as friends and family.  Volunteering, or joining a club or community group are also good ways to stay socially active.

At Movement Academy, our focus is on providing an easy to use home workout regimen that stimulates both mind and body. For more information, contact us at info@movementacademy.net.

 

Low Income Schools Use Physical Activity to Improve Academics

  • “I’m not trained in that.”
  • “There isn’t enough time”
  • “Kids will be rowdy and out of control if I let them have physical activity in class”

All of these statements are reflected in the attitudes, actions and words of an overwhelming majority of classroom teachers, principals, and school board leaders across the country.  What they are ignorant of and refuse to look at the already present mountains of evidence by the CDC and other authorities, are the behavioral and academic benefits to having physical activity breaks in the classroom.  In his book SPARK, Dr. John J. Ratey gives the most acclaimed and accurate information regarding the benefits of increasing physical activity and PE for the standard student.  When I say standard, I do mean not just the athletes and students in AP level courses.

Dr. Ratey included a case study of Titusville, PA, schools.  Titusville had a median income below $28,000 when the book was published.  You can infer most if not all students were on the free lunch program.  This type of school system is usually associated with low grades and high behavioral problems, ingredients for unrest, distrust, and antipathy among students.  Who really cares about Titusville?  Miracles do happen.  By increasing physical activity in the classroom and PE (yes taking valuable minutes away from instructional time) Titusville test scores went from below average to 17% above in reading and 18% above in math.  Additionally, no fights occurred at the junior high for 8 years and counting since more physical activity was incorporated into daily school structure.

  • “Moderate evidence indicates that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can have beneficial effects on cognition in individuals with diseases or disorders that impair cognitive function, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
  • “For children ages 5 through 13, the evidence indicates that both acute bouts and regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improve cognition, including memory, processing speed, attention, and academic performance.”

These statements from the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report from the CDC proved true in a low income and underperforming school system.  I don’t think Titusville, PA, is a vacuum.  The CDC results are not specific to only low-income human families.  Dr. Ratey is also not generating more income because Titusville had the success independent of his writing the book.  With scientific evidence mounting all over the country, why are school leaders so against improving their schools without spending substantially more money on extra STEM programs that require huge grants?  The answer is a mystery since “evidence-based” is the trendy phrase to describe why a government entity can or cannot use a program.  Evidence comes from the top health authority in the land!

If you’re a classroom teacher reading this and still in denial of the facts, I challenge you to incorporate physical activity for the rest of this school year.  In fact, I’ll even GIVE you Movement Academy’s  Classroom Physical Activity Program for the remainder of the school year to prove the CDC is right.  Titusville, PA, can be any school district, regardless of income level, across the country.  They even acquired used equipment to build their activity centers.  Go on Craig’s List and see how many treadmills and dumbbell sets are being given away.

Go read SPARK and then take me up on my offer.  You have nothing to lose but the interest and attention of your students.  Chances are, you lose that daily in the first few minutes of class.  Email me at mpeale@movementacademy.net.  I promise the results according to the CDC and you’re not paying a dime for them this school year.

 

Losing Your Balance? Try Exercise! It’s Easier to Swallow Than Pills

Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body’s position comfortably while walking, standing, ascending or descending stairs, or even just sitting still. People over 65 see their doctors for balance disorders more than any other condition, so it’s important to maintain or even improve balance as you age.

Most older people feel dizzy briefly at some time or other. In many cases, balance problems disappear on their own within about two weeks. But if you have strong or persistent feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, or if you sometimes feel shaky, weak, unstable, or just generally physically insecure, you could have a balance disorder.

To have good balance, your muscles have to work smoothly together in response to several sensory systems:

  • your vision
  • the sensations you get constantly from nerves in your skin, muscles, limbs, and joints (called proprioception)
  • nerve signals from your inner ear

These sensory systems supply information about your position in space and the pull of gravity. Errors in any of these systems can produce balance problems. So muscular improvement is a good step, but there are options that can provide even more benefits.

On a simple level, balance training involves doing exercises that strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright, including your legs and core. These kinds of exercises can improve stability and help prevent falls. That makes sense – stronger muscles help keep you upright! But there’s more to it! Physical exercise over a course of several months has been shown to improve cognitive performance, including executive functions, speed of processing, and memory. So what type of exercise is best? Cardiorespiratory fitness improvements following aerobic training might only be one of multiple factors mediating the positive effects of exercise on cognition. It is vitally important to include a variety of classes of activity – resistance training, balance training, coordination exercises; strength exercises, etc. By including all of these forms of exercise on a regular basis, research has shown improvement not only in balance, but also in cognitive function, executive function, memory, and more.

The Movement Academy Active Agers Program provides a road map for an exercise program that incorporates all of these activities into your exercise program. So, while getting stronger and healthier, you are improving balance and stimulating neural growth in the brain! Try it. You have nothing to lose (except maybe a few pounds) and A LOT TO GAIN!  Click HERE to start your Active Aging Program today.  Enter code MEMORY to get 50% off your first month!  Only those who act receive the benefits of balance!

Physical Activity in Class Equals Higher Grades than Butts Glued to the Chair

Fact or myth:

The CDC publishes guidelines on exercise and physical activity – FACT

Majority of PE teachers & fitness pros know about the guidelines and follow them – MYTH

Exercise volume and intensity are not important – MYTH

Academic test scores improve with more time sitting in class – MYTH

In 2018, the CDC published the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report.  It was the first update to their original report published in 2008.  Sad part is both reports are mostly a mystery to the public and those in the health and fitness industry, including PE teachers.  While there are a number of common-sense findings, there are also new updates specifically related to mental health.  This blog article talks about the findings specifically regarding school-age children and why they are suffering under the old rule of butts in the seats yields better grades and test scores.

Do you feel smarter and more attentive from sitting in a four-hour meeting with no breaks to walk around?  The answer is likely no.  You feel restless, ready to leave the room, your mind wanders to everything but what’s being presented, and sleeping is eminent.  Kids feel the same way in class except they haven’t developed the mental fortitude to behave appropriately after such long and miserable sessions.  The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines give a much different story.

Youth ages 5-17 require 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.  In that 60 minutes, muscle and bone strengthening activities at least three times-a-week are required.  Obviously PE class isn’t doing it and a lack of recess doesn’t help.  How does that affect their grades and test scores?  “…the evidence indicates that both acute bouts and regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improve cognition, including memory, processing speed, attention, and academic performance,” per the report.  Since schools are limiting exercise and physical activity opportunities in the name of higher test scores, why are they contradicting the evidence?

Government institutions such as public schools, are all about evidence and studies, of which 1 in 100 teachers/administrators actually read.  The question is why are school leaders denying these facts and not taking steps to help themselves?  At the basic level, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have students do any kind of movement by their desks.  No additional degree or certification is needed.  You can’t argue against the CDC in our country, especially when schools have to follow the nutrition guidelines it provides for cafeterias.  Back to why is it such a fight against the stated evidence?

“A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will … reduce anxiety symptoms and improve cognition on the day that it is performed.”  Student benefits go beyond physical and into emotional, which all teachers know can be a huge disruption in class.  Classes that have fewer behavioral problems also perform better on tests.  Taking 3-5 minutes for a physical activity break have these results which aren’t coaxed out, but natural effects.  How do you feel after brisk exercise?  Aren’t you more attentive and relaxed?  Simple adjustments in a class period can yield massive natural results.

My company, Movement Academy, has a program that meets SHAPE America’s standards and is grade level appropriate.  Older kids won’t feel embarrassed dancing, and everyone can participate regardless of athletic desire or ability.  Get your school started in January and receive 50% off.  Email me at mpeale@movementacademy.net for more info and to improve the academic performance of your school’s students today!

 

Secrets of How Exercise Helps Your Memory

You hear and read articles about why exercise is important for older adults mentally.  Maybe you wonder how exercise really works for the brain, and can it also help you the same way it does someone over 65.  The answer is yes it can.  In fact, studies are showing that how much exercise you do in middle age has a large impact on brain health twenty years into the future.  The three major areas your brain improves are in executive function, speed of processing, and short-term memory recall.  Science is still debating how much improvement for memory can happen, but the signs of dementia can be reduced.

Executive Function

When you hear the term Executive Function, maybe you think of an act by the president or CEO of a company, or part of the President of the United States’ action plan for trade.  Executive Function is plural, because those are all of the actions you take for granted on a daily basis.  Actions like brushing your teeth, buttoning a shirt, and getting out of bed.  Remembering how and why you’re doing these tasks is vital for basic life.  Stimulating the brain through exercise and physical activity helps you to perform these tasks flawlessly and without much conscious thought.  When you see an older adult with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, these simple functions are mountains to overcome.

Speed of Processing

How fast you process information from your five senses and respond can be a life and death situation.  As you age, you naturally slow down and decline in how quick you think and move.  Race car drivers experience this and retire in their early forties.  While they are in peak physical condition, their responses have slowed by .01 or .001 which means winning and second place, or even crashing or not.  Take that to having a conversation or normal driving to the grocery store.  Slower response times can make a conversation difficult and driving deadly to yourself and others.  Exercise keeps the brain primed for quicker and appropriate responses to stimuli everywhere around you.

Short Term Memory Recall

“Where did I put my keys?”  We all have lapses such as this and forget where you put them last.  Aging makes issues like this more common.  Seniors can remember a vacation in 1982, but not what color their shirt was yesterday.  By elevating the heart rate, all humans can build new cells in their hippocampus to stabilize and improve short-term memory recall.  For youth, therefore exercise is vital to helping academic achievement and test scores.  Doing a bout of exercise before a complicated task improves the brain’s ability to recall the information needed for that task, like a math test.  The effects are short term and are lost over time, which is why the CDC says 30 minutes a day are mandatory.

The type of exercise has various effects on other cognitive networks, but I’m not going into those details now.  Elevating your heart rate is the largest factor to make all of these functions better.  You must sustain a minimum of 70% of your maximum heart rate for 11-20 minutes daily to reap the benefits of science.  While you won’t suddenly become a rocket scientist in a day, consistent exercise along with dietary changes, can drastically improve brain health.  The best part is you don’t have to make the improvements consciously, the body does it automatically and your quality of life is maintained through the years.  Go raise that heart rate!  Every part of your brain and heart thanks you for being a good friend to them.

For an evidence-based program to build your cognitive function through physical exercise, Movement Academy’s Active Aging Program is right for you.  Whether you’re an individual or an organization, there are options to meet your needs.  Go to https://movementacademy.net/senior-program/ for details and sign up as an individual.

PE Teachers as Health Coaches

Health coach.  It’s a term used by almost everyone in the health, fitness, and wellness field to describe what they do or their actual title.  A health coach is not a graduate of any college or university, nor is it required to be certified in any type of health, fitness, or wellness training.  One vital occupation that fills the role of a health coach and gets none of the credit is a PE teacher.

In theory, and not always practice, a PE teacher is your first experience with anyone knowledgeable in health, fitness, sports, and wellness.  The elementary school PE teacher provides kids their initial dive into what being a healthy and fit person means.  Doing the job correctly means being a healthy and fit person yourself as a role model, and consistently learning how to make a larger impact on the health, fitness, and wellness of your students.  Unfortunately, this view is not currently taken by PE teachers, administrators, parents, and students.

From a business standpoint, many network marketing companies instruct their distributors to label themselves as health coaches to describe their work in selling nutritional supplements.  Yes, I have worked in that business arena extensively in the past.  Truthfully, a network marketer has more nutrition education and information than a PE teacher, which is extremely sad!  PE teachers receive minimal to no education and professional development about nutrition and healthy eating to share with their students.  Have you seen the childhood obesity problem?  The lack of education given to kids is a significant part of the problem as they become adults with buying power.  The CDC says barely 56% of health teachers across the United States even receive professional development on nutrition at all.  FYI, health teacher and PE teacher are not always the same person.

My company Movement Academy recently conducted a PD for a New Orleans area school district’s PE teachers.  As a personal trainer I can give guidelines and general facts about healthy eating and macro nutrients, but no specific diet recommendations.  The teachers in our sessions were generally clueless about healthy eating and discussed little to nothing with their students.  They all agreed overweight and poorly fueled kids are an issue yet didn’t think their jobs were to give students any insight.  That blew my mind!  Physical education is not about dodge ball, kickball, and only sports.  Healthy eating is crucial to overall physical fitness and on the same level as teaching movement skills before sports skills.

Here’s a thought, change the title from elementary school PE teacher to elementary school health coach.  Make it incentive pay based on health assessments and indicators of the students in a school.  Who cares how far a kid can throw the football, what is his disease risk factors score.  Is he a candidate for type 2 diabetes and heart disease?  The health coach not doing his or her job doesn’t receive the top pay.  That’ll get some of the roll out the ball PE teachers actually doing their job!  The teachers may even speak up and have their school leadership pay for worthwhile professional development to help them hit their incentives.  And oh btw, academic performance and attendance just tripled while behavioral issues dropped by 50% under such a program.

“Hi, kids!  I’m Mr. Matt, your health coach this year.  We are starting every class with a cheer about healthy eating.  After that we are learning some awesome skills together so you can have more fun and energy!  First, everyone has to smile and be ready to move.  Ready, here we go!”

Exercise Prescription for Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia

To date, no medication exists to stop dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.  No medication exists to prevent them either.  What really happens biologically in the brain for these two horrible breakdowns to occur?  A buildup of the beta-amyloid protein in the brain and specifically the hippocampus, increases the rate of cognitive decline due to atrophy.  The causes are both genetic and lifestyle, with lifestyle becoming more prevalent to cause risk factors.  Lifestyle is 100% voluntary, remember that.

As science progresses and more studies are done to find out how to slow down and prevent the protein buildups from happening, one common prescription remains constant and it’s free of charge!  Exercise!  Funny how exercise and proper diet seem to be a common answer to reduce risk factors, intensity of certain diseases, and used as a symptom reliever in others.  You can’t take a pill or liquid serving with each meal to replicate the benefits of a moderately healthy diet and moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise.

A recent study the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by Dr. Rong Zhang showed regular aerobic exercise maintains the integrity of white matter in the brain which is linked to improved executive function.  Last time I checked regular aerobic exercise isn’t available at CVS for the drive-thru pickup window.  You do have to get out of your car and off the couch for the exercise prescription to work properly. Another study in Medical News Today preserves the brain health of people with mild cognitive impairment.  Are the studies a coincidence?  Likely not as they were done with enough of a sample and published in reputable journals.

An important key to the results of the studies are the moderate-to-vigorous intensity levels a person must achieve to see the desired results.  Basically, if your heart rate is not elevated to the point of labored breathing, you’re not going hard enough.  A leisurely stroll from the front door to your car is not moderate-to-vigorous.  Neither is a leisurely stroll around the block or in the mall shopping.  Sweat is involved and it is work.  The alternative is to lose control of basic body functions and have somebody wipe the drool off your chin at an earlier age than you expected.  Which do you choose?

What constitutes aerobic exercise you ask?  Anything to elevate your heart rate for 20-30 minutes in a session.  Yes anything.  Whatever you like doing physically, do it a little harder, it’s that simple.  Lift weights, play tennis or racquetball, jog, play pickleball, etc.  Didn’t your doctor tell you the same thing years ago when he or she put you on the first blood pressure medication?  No doctor will tell you exercise, and healthy eating are things you need to avoid at all cost, I promise you.  In fact, I’ll give you $100 bill if they say so.

What are my credentials to make such statements and claims?  I am a certified personal trainer, currently certified by NASM since 2014 and overall since 2008.  I work with clients over 60 years old daily.  If my authority and the medical community’s authority don’t convince you otherwise, stock up on Depends undergarments and have a ton of paper towels available to wipe off that drool because you’ll need them much sooner than later.