What do you call it when you walk for a cause, volunteer for something you believe in, and share your love for fitness and health? I call it a cathartic experience, and that’s what I had when I participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer's.
Last year I led the warm up for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in my local community, St. Charles, Illinois. This year I had the opportunity to lead two more warm ups for two Walk to End Alzheimer’s events. I’ve lost both of my parents to dementia related diseases, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Needless to say, sharing fitness and health with hundreds who have joined forces to fight Alzheimer’s was an amazing way to pay tribute to my mom and my dad. It was also my chance to raise awareness about the power of exercise to keep our brain healthy.
Exercise and brain health is a passionate subject for me. Not only because it’s personal, but because it’s a testament to the fact that exercise does far more than get our body fit. I’ve spent decades leading exercise classes and teaching everyone from college students to fitness pros about exercise, and I love reading current research supporting that exercise can help us maintain a healthy brain.
How does exercise affect our brain? Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, prevent diabetes, reduce stress, and lower anxiety, all conditions which can indirectly contribute to impaired cognitive functioning. In her article, “Exercise: It does so much more than burn calories,” Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD, states that, “Exercise can also help enhance our cognitive skills — it’s true that what is good for the heart is good for the brain...regular exercise can actually increase the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with memory.” Best of all, “150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week can significantly decrease the risk of dying prematurely.” That should inspire all of us to get active, right? Not for big guns and tight buns, but because we want to live well, with a healthy body and an active, healthy brain.
The fact is, Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia are likely to affect us all on some level, and we can all do more to keep our brain healthy. Here are some facts I learned on my walk. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association these signs are posted throughout the walk, increasing awareness about the devastating impact of this disease to our loved ones, to caregivers, and even to our economy at large. I hope they serve as inspiration to care for our body, and in turn to care for our brain.
Me with my team who helped me lead one of the warm ups. They’re a group of fitness friends who attend my Pilates and Young at Heart classes.
Me with my team of Young at Heart fitness friends who helped me lead one of the warm ups.
Cheers to the power of exercise to keep our body and brain healthy and strong.
Best in Health,
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