Staying in School Helps Maintain Brain Function Through Adulthood, Study Shows

Benefits of Physical Activity

Staying in School Helps Maintain Brain Function Through Adulthood, Study Shows

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

Everyone can experience the health benefits of physical activity – age, abilities, ethnicity, shape, or size do not matter.

If you’re not sure about becoming active or boosting your level of physical activity because you’re afraid of getting hurt, the good news is that moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, is generally safe for most people.

Read about the benefits for improving your brain health, weight management, reducing disease, strengthening your bones and muscles, and improving your ability to do everyday activities.

If you have not been physically active in a while, you may be wondering how to get started again. Find more tips here to get started with physical activity for a healthy weight.

Learn more about what works and how physical activity can improve your health.

Learn more about Health Benefits of Physical Activity for Adults and Children

Some benefits of physical activity on brain health pdf icon[PDF-14.4MB]external icon happen right after a session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

Benefits include improved thinking or cognition for children 6 to 13 years of age and reduced short-term feelings of anxiety for adults. Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age.

It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better.

Learn more about Health Benefits of Physical Activity for Adults and Children.

Looking to get to or stay at a healthy weight? Both diet and physical activity play a critical role in maintaining a healthy body weight, losing excess body weight, or maintaining successful weight loss.

You gain weight when you consume more calories through eating and drinking than the amount of calories you burn, including those burned during physical activity. It’s important to balance calories.

When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need. You may need to be more active than others to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

To maintain your weight: Work your way up to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week).

Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity can help you maintain your weight over time. However, the exact amount of physical activity needed to do this is not clear since it varies greatly from person to person.

It’s possible that you may need to do more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to maintain your weight.

To lose weight and keep it off: You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your diet and reduce the amount of calories you’re eating and drinking.

Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both regular physical activity and a healthy eating plan.

For more information about nutrition, physical activity, and weight loss, visit Healthy Weight.

Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Following the recommendations and getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk for these diseases.

You can reduce your risk even further with more physical activity. Regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.

Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is some combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar.

People start to see benefits at levels of physical activity below the recommended 150 minutes a week. Additional amounts of physical activity seem to lower risk even more.

Already have type 2 diabetes? Regular physical activity can help you control your blood glucose levels. To find out more, visit Diabetes and Me.

Being physically active lowers your risk for developing several commonly occurring cancers. Research shows that adults who participate in greater amounts of physical activity have reduced risks of developing cancers of the:

  • Bladder
  • Breast
  • Colon (proximal and distal)
  • Endometrium
  • Esophagus (adenocarcinoma)
  • Kidney
  • Lung
  • Stomach (cardia and non-cardia adenocarcinoma)

Improve your quality of life. If you are a cancer survivor, research shows that getting regular physical activity not only helps give you a better quality of life, but also improves your physical fitness.

As you age, it’s important to protect your bones, joints, and muscles – they support your body and help you move.

Keeping bones, joints, and muscles healthy can help ensure that you’re able to do your daily activities and be physically active.

Doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening physical activity at a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age.

Hip fracture is a serious health condition that can have life-changing negative effects, especially if you’re an older adult. Physically active people have a lower risk of hip fracture than inactive people.

Among older adults, physical activity also reduces the risk of falling and injuries from falls. Physical activity programs that include more than one type of physical activity are most successful at reducing falls and fall-related injuries.

Different types of physical activity include aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance physical activities. Also, weight bearing activities such as running, brisk walking, jumping jacks and strength training produce a force on the bones.

These activities that can help promote bone growth and bone strength and reduce the risk of fall-related injuries and fractures.

Regular physical activity helps with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affecting the joints. Doing 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, if able, plus muscle-strengthening activity improves your ability to manage pain and do everyday tasks and improves quality of life.

Build strong, healthy muscles. Muscle-strengthening activities lifting weights can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength.

This is important for older adults who experience reduced muscle mass and muscle strength with aging.

Slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions you do as part of muscle strengthening activities will give you even more benefits, no matter your age.

Improve Your Ability to do Daily Activities and Prevent Falls

A functional limitation is a loss of the ability to do everyday activities such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or playing with your grandchildren.

How does this relate to physical activity? If you’re a physically active middle-aged or older adult, you have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive.

Improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls. For older adults, multicomponent physical activity is important to improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls or injury from a fall.

Multicomponent physical activity is physical activity that includes more than one type of physical activity, such as aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance training.

Multicomponent physical activity can be done at home or in a community setting as part of a structured program.

Increase Your Chances of Living Longer

Science shows that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from leading causes of death, heart disease and some cancers. This is remarkable in two ways:

  1. Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive.
  2. You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. Benefits start to accumulate with any amount of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity.


Senior Brain Boosters: Tips for Maintaining Brain Health

Staying in School Helps Maintain Brain Function Through Adulthood, Study Shows

Aging is a natural part of life; however, it can be difficult for older adults to cope with the changes happening in their body, both physically and mentally. As people age, the structure of the brain changes, which can affect memory and thinking abilities—this means keeping the mind active is just as imperative as maintaining physical health.

COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine measures over the past year impacted the natural ways many older adults maintain their brain health, such as visiting a friend or having access to in-person activities through town-sponsored senior centers. It can be challenging to keep the brain sharp, but research has shown that healthy lifestyle habits can support cognitive health and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s important to note that while age-related forgetfulness is common, the risk for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia increases with age. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia, such as asking the same questions over and over or having trouble following directions, be sure to consult with a doctor.

Here are some key ways to support cognitive function and keep your brain and memory sharp:

Learn a new skill

Learning something new is not only fun, but it can also help stimulate the brain. Studies have shown that older adults who learned a new skill had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitive-related activities.

To figure out what new skills you’d to try, ask yourself: Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do? Perhaps you’d to learn how to knit, use a certain program on the computer or bake a new recipe? Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be a substantial change to your life. Something as simple as opening a cookbook you’ve had for years and making a new recipe can help build confidence and keep your mind sharp.

Stay social

Participating in social activities and engaging in conversations are good brain stimulators. Keeping in touch with friends and loved ones and maintaining connections will help keep your spirits up and your mind engaged. Ask your friends and family to spend time together or call them if they’re far away.

You can also research activities offered within your community. Many town and city senior organizations have group fitness classes or book or gardening clubs. These are great places to interact with people that have similar interests. Surrounding yourself with those who bring you happiness and doing activities that you love is beneficial to your overall health and well-being.

Keep up with your hobbies

Hobbies such as playing chess, reading a book or doing a daily Sudoku puzzle can help boost overall cognitive function. Specifically, these hobbies may help sharpen quick-thinking skills, such as processing speed, decision-making and short-term memory.

Many of these games and activities can also be found online if you’re in need of a virtual partner or access to more reading materials and puzzles.

For instance, in addition to playing chess or checkers online, apps Audible and Words with Friends are good digital options for reading and puzzle games.

Maintain a daily routine

Daily routines can help you stay regularly engaged with the activities that you are familiar with. Whether it’s making a cup of coffee every morning or doing laundry on a specific day of the week, our personal routines can give our brains a sense of comfort and stability. Figure out which routines work best for you and make sure to stick to them.

Improve your sleep schedule

Studies have shown that both insufficient sleep and sleeping longer than average can increase your lihood of developing dementia. It is recommended that people over the age of 65 get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try practicing meditation, disconnecting from your electronic devices and avoiding big meals before bed to help achieve a better night’s rest.

However, if you’re experiencing extreme tiredness or any symptoms that are preventing you from sleeping consistently, consult with your doctor.

Know where to get help if you need it

Aging can impact psychological health in addition to physical health. Conditions anxiety and depression can impact our cognitive function and cause memory loss.

Know the signs and symptoms of anxiety, and seek help if you think you or your loved one may be suffering.

Irritability, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy and loss of memory are several symptoms among many that may indicate you may need help.

Free resources, such as mental health treatments and support options, are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute for Mental Health. Additionally, your current health care plan ly includes behavioral health services.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan members have access to multiple resources including support lines, professional behavioral health treatment options and online tools.

Members can also search for a behavioral health specialist to fit their specific needs.

Please note, if you or someone you know needs helps now, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Stay active

Being physically active keeps your body healthy, resulting in a healthier mind. In fact, recent data has shown that regular aerobic training may offset or prevent age-related cognitive decline in older adults who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s.

Whether it’s going for a walk or participating in an exercise class, physical activity is important for maximizing brain function and improving overall health.

Both Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan offer complimentary virtual fitness classes if you’re looking to try a new activity such as yoga or Zumba.

Eat healthy

Eating a balanced, healthy diet for seniors can help support brain health. Make sure you incorporate healthy foods into your daily routine.

Fruits and vegetables are excellent choices as they are packed with antioxidants—leafy greens, grapes and blueberries are all especially good options.

Additionally, fatty fish, including salmon, tuna and herring, contain DHA omega-3 fatty acids and help protect the brain and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s.

Everyone’s body is different so talk with your doctor to determine the best food options for your specific body and dietary needs.

Being proactive about brain health will help you stay sharp and prevent age-related cognitive decline. There are many ways to support a healthy mind and keep it sharp—not only to improve everyday quality-of-life, but to help reduce the risk of dementia and memory loss. Remember, age is just a number and it shouldn’t define who you are.


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