Older & Wiser with Sue Grant

Posts in the cardio category

Dance For Increased Brain Health

In addition to providing physical, psychological, and social benefits, did you know that dancing is also really good for your brain? 

In a new study from Germany in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers divided healthy people 63 and older into two training  groups.  Half of the group did repetitive exercises that did not require new learning, and the other half enrolled in a dance program that required them to continually learn challenging new routines.  Classes were held twice a week for six months, and then once a week for the next 12 months.

As seen in MRIs, both groups had increases in gray matter in the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is involved in learning, long term memory, and spatial navigation.  However, the dancers had increases in more parts of this brain structure, and also had significant improvements in balance.

Atrophy in the hippocampus is part of the normal aging process, especially after age 70, but the great news is that this is one of the brain areas that can actually generate new neurons in response to physical and mental challenges – like dancing!  The key to the process, known as neuroplasticity, is to be moving while solving a cognitive task.

As we get older, many of us are worried about “losing our marbles.”  The authors of this study concluded that, “the additional challenges involved in our dance program, namely cognitive and sensorimotor stimulation, induced extra hippocampus volume changes in addition to those attributable to physical fitness alone.”

Even if you think you have “two left feet,” dancing, or doing some kind of activity that challenges you to learn new things while you are moving, will help you to keep those marbles!

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

How Many Steps a Day: Is 10,000 Necessary?

10,000 steps…….. or not!

You have probably heard of the recommendation to walk at least 10,000 steps each day.  This is a commendable goal, but if we don’t reach that target, it’s tempting to simply give up and throw in the towel.

New research has concluded that the 10,000 step target might actually be a little on the high side, in a report from Atlantic.com. 

Researchers from Harvard gave fitness trackers to 16,000 women ages 62 to 101 and counted their steps.  They then monitored their health for a four-year period.  In a comparable study, scientists from the renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm gave a similar device to 851 subjects, including almost 400 men, and tracked them for 14.2 years.  In other words, one trial observed an impressively large number of subjects, and the other monitored its subjects for an impressive number of follow up years.

Surprise!  After adjusting for diet, lifestyle, and other factors, the Harvard researchers found that the women who walked about 4,400 steps a day had a 41% lower risk of premature death than the least active gals, who averaged 2,700 steps.  The Swedish study also found that the most active subjects had a 50 to 70 percent decline in mortality during a defined follow up period compared to the least active, most sedentary participants.

Walking more than 4,400 steps further on decreased the risk level moderately, and the benefits plateaued  at around 7,500.

Harvard lead author i-Min Lee says the 10,000-step goal should be lowered to encourage more people to get walking.  “If you’re sedentary,” she says, “even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.”

Fun fact to ponder:  The 10,000 step target isn't actually based on scientific research – it stems from a 1960s marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer that played on the fact that the Japanese character for 10,000 resembles a man walking!  

Take away message:  Don’t give up if you aren’t walking 10,000 steps a day.  Shoot for at least 4,400 – a much more manageable target.

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

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