If ageing gracefully is important to you and you want mental clarity and protection against cognitive and physical decline in later years, get up and start moving. Nick da Silva specialises in mobility training, and inspires us towards an active life by looking at research showing how important physical activity is when it comes to preventing cognitive decline.
'Nothing is impossible in life, just tune into yourself and you can do anything,' says 96-year-old New York-based yoga teacher Tao Porchon Lynch. Her advice? 'Never procrastinate, tomorrow doesn't count.' Eighty-six-year-old Cape Town resident Shirley Kaplan regularly hikes the mountain and keeps a vigorous boxing routine. 'Don't believe anything anyone says about ageing, it's not true. You can stay fit, agile and active for as long as you want ' it's all in the mind,' she says. At 103, a healthy Katherine Weber from Winnipeg in Canada said, 'Don't act your age.' She made sure her life was filled with adventure, and walked the wall of China at age 82.
INTERRUPT YOUR SITTING SESSION
A daily bout of exercise is highly beneficial, but if the majority of your day is spent sitting, you need to be aware of the potential harm this has on your body and what you can do to bulletproof yourself. We all know that sitting for prolonged periods is disastrous for our health, and scientific literature backs this up. We also know the feeling when our body aches as our joints get compressed, our muscles and connective tissue stiffen, our metabolism spirals and we become foggy as we try to adjust our vision from staring into our computer screens. I see clients affected by this all the time. What I've come to realise is that being aware of the body and posture outside the training environment may be more important than the effort we put into our training sessions. Supplementing with low-level activity throughout the day will prevent joint degeneration or disease, connective tissue disorders and metabolic disease. The important thing is to set yourself up for success and apply simple strategies that will have a profound effect on your wellbeing.
SET AN EXAMPLE
A study into ageing highlights the importance of creating a legacy for young children and adolescents ' not only for their developing bodies, but also for their brains. In this study, children who were encouraged to exercise were compared to 'unfit', relatively sedentary children. The fit, active children had an increased volume of the dorsal striatum - an area of the brain important for attention regulation. So make sure your children express themselves physically, whether in structured exercise or unstructured play. It's especially pertinent for our current generation, who are often distracted from physical activity because of iPhones, laptops and the internet. The danger of being addicted to tech is a mindless, weak and cognitively impaired future generation who have lost complete touch with their bodies and all their capabilities. Leading by example is an excellent motivator for being physically active. Young people respond to what they see and model their behaviour accordingly.
Another aspect of the Frontier study looked at 9000 women and identified that those who were physically active in their teenage years were more likely to be active in later life. This amounted to significantly lower incidences of cognitive impairment at the age of around 70, and concludes that the strongest time point to encourage physical activity is during the teenage years. These habits are likely to be carried through to later years. Having said that, it's never too late to start. If you haven't been active for some time, now is always a good time to get going.
Research shows that the most beneficial exercise for the brain is resistance training, strength training and cardio-respiratory training as opposed to only balance and tone stretching. This was demonstrated in a study of people over 65 who underwent six months of resistance training and outdoor aerobic walking compared to a control group who only performed balance and tone stretching for the six-month period. As expected, strength and aerobic capacity improved in the resistance trained group, but cognitive function was higher in comparison to the balance and stretch trained group. The subjects following the resistance
training protocol were able to increase the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) after only four months of training. BDNF is seen to lower the threshold for long-term potentiation in the hippocampus, which
increases memory and learning. During this process, new neural pathways develop - a process known as neuroplasticity. This has a profound effect on mitigating the effects of ageing, keeping you young and vibrant.
2 ANTI-AGEING PRACTICES
1. Practising anti-ageing means balancing your working day with low-level physical activity in bouts of three to five minutes after every 45 minutes of
sedentary time. Schedule mobility drills, walk around, and do some body weight movements - anything that circulates your blood and gets you moving.
2. Establish a legacy for the generation to come by following basic training protocols with a strength and cardio-respiratory component
After about 45 minutes of being sedentary, body impulses start to register differently. Set a timer that goes off every 45 minutes and do something to counteract the negative effects of sitting. This canbe as simple as a short walk around the office or a series of stretches or mobility drills. It doesn't need to take too long - roughly three to five minutes of getting the blood flow going and muscles moving is all it takes. Applying this simple strategy alone will increase your work productivity, elevate your mood and enhance your general wellbeing. It will also raise your motivation level so that when the time to exercise arrives, you have a well-oiled machine that's primed for performance.
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