Elderly Aerobics

I thought I had made it to the elderly aerobics stage when I turned 60, but the 70, 80, and even 90 year old guys at the YMCA are still playfully condescending and patronizing.

In fact, those guys call me "son" and regularly insult my sports team allegiances.

I thought that I had made it into the Seniors club with my balding pate, and grey trim, but I guess there are some initiations to complete.

I know that there are probably seniors who have not exercised the way I have, or cannot exercise the way I do, but all of what I read these days, especially in regards to brain fitness for seniors is that regular physical activity or even an exercise regimen is vitally important to our brain viability, and I mean things like short term memory, (where are my glasses, what word did I want to use...?), hearing, fluid intelligence, perception, ect.

Michael Merzenich, Ph.D. of Posit Science, has put together a brain fitness program which has been tested on Seniors in the IMPACT study, using aural tones so that the neurons in our hearing circuit, for lack of a better term, are exercised, and once again fire together. The consequence is that we can sort out conversations from noise, like at a family gathering, where lots of conversations are going on, but maybe only one that we want to participate in, and with our aural neurons firing in tight synchrony, we can sort out the conversation from the noise, leaving us feeling good.

One of the key factors impacting elderly neurogenesis and elderly brain plasticity is physical exercise.

Not too many years ago, we did not know that the human brain grew new neurons, or was such a plastic, changeable organ, nor did we know that lifestyle decisions impacted those two capacities of the human brain so tremendously.

The lifestyly choices involve physical exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.

Elderly Aerobics and Strength Training Might Look Like This...

Elderly aerobics, if you are not going to the YMCA like Ray, or Robert, a champion bench presser in his age group, who did even begin lifting weights until he was 55, can look like this. 


Moderate aerobic activity for a combined total of at least 30 minutes, most days of the week.

Individual bouts of activity may be as brief as 10 minutes.

Strength training

A single set of 10 to 15 repetitions using eight to 10 different exercises, performed two to three times per week.

Each repetition should be performed slowly through a full range of motion while avoiding holding one's breath (Valsalva maneuver).

The training program should involve all major muscle groups.

Balance and flexibility

Stretch major muscle groups once per day after exercise when muscles are more compliant.

Balance training and weight transfer program twice per week.

I like to practice my balance training on rail road tracks that run past the YMCA. I practice walking them before and after each workout.

It took a few practices to find a center, and move down the tracks without losing my balance, but I am doing better, which is all I want to do, practice regularly. 

AAFP-Amercan Family Physician 

"Muscle strength declines by 15 percent per decade after age 50 and 30 percent per decade after age 70; however, resistance training can result in 25 to 100 percent, or more, strength gains in older adults."

That is good news for me, and it confirms my experience. There are some exercises that I am actually stonger on now than when I was a kid.

I do not have the definition I had then, but I can still manhandle my son, which is important. Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D. co-authors of an excellent book, Brainfit for Life speak to the benefits of increasing our physical activities, the things we already do, before we enter into a physical exercise regimen. So extra walking, a couple or extra trips up and down the strairs, can bring increased blood flow to the brain, encouraging neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.

In other words, you do not have to learn how to bench press at championship levels to benefit from elderly aerobics.

And if you want to take advantage of the increased neurogenesis and neuroplasticity happening with that increased physical activity, try these brain fitness programs. The first is the program mentioned above, created by Michael Merzenich and the folks at Posit Science, called the Brain Fitness Program.

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