Exercises and Tips to Prevent Dementia

As we age, the risk of developing dementia progressively increases. While we won’t all develop Alzheimer’s disease, maintaining good mental health is important for each and every one of us.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia; Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 67 seconds. This is very serious.

We can fight dementia and its symptoms with a healthy lifestyle, and following some key exercises and tips to prevent dementia will help to significantly reduce the risk of developing this debilitating condition.

An organization known as Age UK has done research that found our lifestyle is responsible for 76% of the changes in the brain. Following some key rules for a healthier lifestyle can reduce dementia risks significantly. The most important ‘golden rules’ include: regular exercise, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, consuming a healthy diet. Here are the top five exercises and tips to prevent dementia:

  • Exercise three to five times each week, for 30 minutes to an hour each time. Exercise for balance and coordination are also a good idea, since these help reduce the risk of a fall that could result in a head injury.
  • Eat a healthy diet with fresh vegetables, fruit, and seafood more than starchy, processed foods and red meat – the Mediterranean diet is really beneficial. Drink alcohol in moderation, and do not smoke.
  • Minimize stress with daily relaxation exercises, encourage your playful and fun side, and make sure to get enough sleep on a regular basis.
  • Participate in regular social activities to engage your mind. Play games and converse with others for social as well as mental stimulation and exercise.
  • Practice cognitive training and brain games to stay mentally active. Learn a new skill, enroll in more formal education, or sign up for free classes and activities at your local community center.

For more details and tips to prevent dementia and even Alzheimer’s, click here.

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Dance to Improve Your Health and Fitness

The options for methods to exercise are nearly endless, and yet not all of them are fun. One way that a lot of seniors find enjoyable and effective is dance to improve your health and fitness.

Dance as a method of exercise provides several benefits for seniors. Its aerobic nature of movement gets your heart rate up, which is important regardless of your age. Doctors recommend that seniors do at least 30 minutes of some type of aerobic exercise each day. Dancing is quite aerobic, particularly with more energetic dances such as Salsa, Tango, and especially Swing.

With such consistent movements, your legs, arms and abdominal muscle groups are exercised with a dancing session. Over time, dancing will help improve your stamina for other forms of exercise, including walking and jogging

Not only is dancing a vigorous activity that works muscles and gets your heart pumping; it has tremendous mental health benefits, even to the point of helping prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. With dance, your brain is engaged to remember the steps, maintain good posture, react to a partner, and more. Many mental health benefits have been found when individuals over the age of 50 participate in regular dance classes or dancing activities.

Since dance requires particular movements and posture, it can help to strengthen the muscles that affect your balance – an important physiological aspect for seniors, for whom falling is a concern.

An added benefit of dancing for exercise is that you don’t necessarily need to pay for lessons – there are numerous dance exercise and instructional DVDs so you can dance at home, and all you need is a partner! No matter what, dancing is a social activity as well as a fitness activity, which promotes a culture of inclusion, improves your quality of life, and can help build your sense of community at a critical time in your life.  

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A Couldn’t-be-Simpler Home Gym for Bad Weather Workouts

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Will you do it if it’s super, ridiculously simple and you don’t have to get in your car and drive anywhere?

I know what it’s like. You’ve worked all day and by the time you’re ready to go home, it’s dark and drizzly. You’re not going to go for a run outside, and on top of that, you’re tired and all you want to do is go home.

But then your little voice of guilt comes over your airwaves, whispering “go to the gym! Go to the gym!”

Don’t you hate it?

So how about if you DO go straight home and do a little workout there? Huh? How about it?

I’m coming to your rescue and simplifying things once again. 

Here’s my little secret for today: you don’t need a bunch of expensive, bulky home gym equipment to do your workout. You don’t even need a spare room. I’m talking really simple – and really effective.

Here you go! 

  • Exercise Mat: this is the place to start to build your home gym, as you will use this for warm up, workout, and cool down. Roll this out in front of a laptop and you have endless yoga, Pilates, and other workouts at your disposal. 
  • Kettle balls: Yes, they did seem like quite the rage not too long ago, but these amazingly versatile guys are going to be around for a long while and are well worth the investment. They can take you through a whole body workout. Remember, you don’t need a whole rack of different weights, just 2 or 3 pairs should do it for you. Check out this helpful buying guide to choose the right ones for you.
  • Foam Rollers: These are the best for self-myofascial release for triggering pressure points, kneading out knots, correcting muscle imbalance, and for injury prevention. You will see an increase in flexibility and blood flow as well. Learn more about the techniques here.
  • Tubing or bands: These allow for endless resistance training and take up waaaay less room than a full weight set and also easily tuck out of the way. You can make your own with basic supplies from the hardware store if you are a real DIY’er. These come in various thicknesses and sizes for your individual needs. You can work your whole body.
  • Battle Rope: This requires a hallway or long room, but you could attach it to the back of your garage and extend it out the door. We mention it here because battle ropes add variety to your workout and there are loads of exercises you can do with them. They work your whole body and get your heart rate up at the same time.
  • Suspension training System: You have heard of TRX and Jungle Gym systems and for good reason. Priced from $50-$150, you can challenge every major muscle group with a suspension training system, and you can easily make your own with basics from the hardware store. Check out these instructions for making and setting up a system.
  • Plyo-Box: These are essential for power and explosion training and cardio-blasters. Plyometric workouts are unbeatable for serious calorie burning, so don’t skip on this box. You can build your own or purchase for minimal investment.

Add your laptop and stream some workout DVDs. With this equipment, you have endless workout options so you’ll never get bored. As you can see, all of these take up very little room. You can store them in a pull out bin under your bed and viola! You have an instant gym. Even if you are not into DIY, purchasing all of the above is less than about $200, or check out Craigslist and get them for less.

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Tips for Safe Rainy Day Cycling

Cycling is one of those sports that is highly addictive. And those badass, committed cyclists are not going to let rainy days hold them back. With a bit of safety precaution and planning, you can continue with your rides even for rainy day cycling.

  • Regulate your body temperature: Core body temperature is an issue, because as you get chilled, your focus is affected which can leave to poor decisions regarding bike control. Therefore, a light breathable, waterproof shell is your best friend. Accept ahead of time that even with a waterproof shell, you will get wet, the goal is to manage your body temp and not get chilled.
  • Adjust for slippery roads: Make sure to test your brakes before you start since wet conditions have a direct effect on your ability to brake in time. Braking in the rain safely is braking in a straight line, not on a corner, so think ahead and as much as is possible keep your bike more upright than normal through corners, not accelerating out of them too quickly
  • Look out for specific sliding hazards: Painted surfaces and steel are even more of a hazard when road conditions are wet. Painted crosswalks, white lines, manhole covers, grates, and railroad crossings are the most common hazards. If you can’t avoid them, take care to ride them straight on rather than at angles or in turning.
  • Protect your vision: A cap with a visor along with cycling glasses help keep splatters out and your eyes on the road. Many collisions are due to vision impairment from wet conditions.
  • Light it up: Even mid-day in winter, wet weather is dark and that makes you more difficult to see by motorists. Improve your chances with bike, helmet, and body mounted lights.
  • Fenders: they may not be the sleekest racing accessory, but they keep you just that much drier and cleaner and again, focused on the road rather than your own discomfort

Keep yourself safe out there and continue to enjoy your rides all rainy season long… and be sure to finish up with a nice hot drink as a reward for your badass commitment in the rain!

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Bust Through The Excuses for Skipping Exercise This Season

The cold, wet weather and tempting call of cozying up by the fire with a sweet treat make this a tough time of year for your fitness regimen. There’s a near endless list of excuses for skipping exercise and ignoring the nutritional parameters you’ve placed on your diet. However, with help, you can bust through and continue your workouts and a healthy diet during the holiday season, without missing out on the fun!

It’s too cold.

Sure, it’s probably too nasty outside to motivate you to go for your daily walk, but there are plenty of things that you can do (without going to the gym) that constitute a great workout. Do repetitions of going up and down the stairs, use a dining chair for body lifts to work your arm muscles, and other body-weight exercises. If you do have access to a local gym, consider hiring a personal trainer to get the accountability and encouragement you need to stick with your workout plan.

Errands and traveling have filled up my schedule.

“I don’t have enough time” is an excuse you can use year-round, and even though the holiday season is busier, it’s still an excuse you can bust! There are lots of ways to sneak some exercise into your holiday hustling and bustling. As you do your holiday shopping, park your car further away from store entrances to force yourself to walk more distance. Enlist your family members for a fun activity, such as skiing, ice skating, or snowball fights.

Those holiday treats are just too tempting.

We get it; part of the fun of the holiday season is all of the special treats! While splurging a little is okay, take care not to overdo it. Some tricks to help you get through the season more healthfully are:

  • Hit the veggie platter more than the dessert table.
  • Eat a healthy meal before a party, so you’re less likely to fill up on treats.
  • Pay attention to your portions, and don’t go back for seconds.
  • Drink a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage you consume.
  • Fit in a 30-minute workout before getting ready for a party to improve your metabolism.

And try these healthier holiday treats instead of the sugar-ridden ones!

I’ll wait for New Year’s.

Don’t wait for January 1st to start your fitness plan! Now is a much better time to start, so that you don’t have to start at ‘0’ to work off all of the sugar and fat you’re likely to consume over the holidays. Also, you’re more likely to stick with something you don’t start as a New Year’s resolution – since most people don’t keep those anyway.

Good luck!

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6 Ways a Snow Day Can Boost Fitness

Snow days are coming and you can be ready.  No need to let it make you feel shut inside…embrace the white stuff! There is just something about having a great excuse NOT to make it into work and also getting out and taking full advantage of the winter wonderland to boost fitness.

Even for those of you in more temperate climates but you have access to the mountains, you can take advantage and go make your snow day just to enjoy it all!

Grab your loved ones and friends and head out there to try out the fun options of activities that get you out in the snow and also turning it into a workout to boost fitness. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Dig in! Shoveling snow is one of the highest caloric burning activities you can do and also check a chore off your to-do list. An average 145 lb. female age 55 burns 278 calories per hour and the metabolic rate after you are done continues the rest of the day. Check out this nifty snow shoveling calculator for your exact weight/height/sex to see how much you burn.
  • Slide down… The hill on a tube!  Any good hill near you and an inner tube and you are good to go to burn 408 calories per hour.  There is something to be said for having to drag your toboggan or sled back up that monster of a hill
  • Fight it out with snowballs as your ammo…Good old fashioned warfare not only is a good workout, but it brings out that inner kid that never really left you and was just looking for a good excuse to nail someone! 160 calories burned per hour.
  • Hike in it, with your snowshoes, that is.  Burning a whopping 476 calories per hour, this sport has been around for a ka-jillion years or so and for good reason.  It is a great way to continue to enjoy the peace and solitude of the back country and stay in shape all winter long. Be prepared with layers because you will heat up quickly.
  • Get fortified by it with a snow fort worthy of all those snowballs your kids and/or grandkids are making. Some of these are amazing and over the top, but hey, great inspiration for your design sense!
  • Get Angelic in it … with your best snow angel self. 107 calories burned per hour creating those snow angels unless you decide to make an entire celestial band of it and you can likely triple that figure.

You see, although your typical downhill sports are fun options, there really are many more that take very little cash outlay and can happen with limited planning and equipment.  The main point is to get out in it and play and breathe deeply!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Simple Tricks for Staying Fit During the Busy Holidays

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

I feel your pain! It’s hard enough to stay motivated to keep exercising during normal times, but during the holiday season? Are you kidding me?


But wait! It doesn’t have to be! Here’s how: simple tricks and planning ahead for staying fit during the busy holidays.

1. Plan around yourself by putting your workout dates on your calendar right now. Don’t wait or you know exactly what will happen – it won’t happen! So do me a favor and stop reading for just a second, and put regular dates on your calendar now. Make sure the times you choose are easy for you to do, and then you’ll be way more likely to keep it up. I’m patient. I’ll wait until you take a few minutes to do this right now.

2.  Remind yourself that if you keep fit during the holidays, you won’t feel like you’re starting behind on January 1st with  – egads – the horrible seasonal weight gain! Who needs that?

3. Learn to do mini-workouts: It is amazing how it’s possible to squeeze in mini workouts throughout the day and really keep your body going. What is a mini workout? Doing anything that causes your heart rate to spike up. The mini workouts I list below will burn a minimum of 100 calories in a relatively short period.

  • Do a 10 minute brisk walk before and after dinner on those nights when you get home too late.
  • Get down and do a series of pushups, crunches, and lunges for just 7 minutes.
  • Choose your favorite 4 yoga poses and do a series of those for 7 minutes.
  • Park at the farthest end of the parking lot and walk as fast as you can to your office or the store.
  • Alternate between the following for a total of 7 to 10 minutes total:
  • One minute of stair stepping up and down your office stairwell
  • One minute of chair dips
  • One minute of arm curls
  • One minute of abs
  • One minute of lunges or squats

Learn to sprinkle these throughout the day and guess what? You’ll be surprised at how much energy you’ll have. Plus, you’ll see how much these mini workouts help to maintain and even increase your fitness over the holidays. Merry fitness to you! 

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Fitness Delays and May Even Prevent Mental Decline in the Elderly

Exercise and healthy eating habits are important no matter what your age, but fitness is particularly important once we reach ‘senior citizen’ status. As our muscles, joints and bones deteriorate with age, it can be more and more difficult to exercise and stay fit, even though it is so necessary. Fit bodies move better, recover faster, and last longer, giving us a better quality of life so that we can enjoy it more with the ones we love.

The physical benefits of fitness extend past just our bones and soft tissue. Reports continue to come out that show exercise and a healthy diet can slow down and even prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. For example, a two-year study of nearly 1,300 60- to 77-year-olds recently reported findings from a study that addressed risk factors such as healthy eating, brain-training exercises and regular tests for blood pressure and other factors. According to Miia Kivipelto, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who co-led the study, “an intensive program aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia.”

Medical News Today reported a few years ago on a South Korean study from the Seoul National University Hospital Healthcare System Gangnam Center. The study found that overweight elderly people have a greater risk of mental decline. Their visceral fat (or belly fat) is the cause, as it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, and seniors with higher BMI (body mass index) test worst in cognitive ability. “Our findings have important public health implications. The prevention of obesity, particularly central obesity, might be important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia,” said Professor Dae Hyun Yoon, who was a researcher on the study.

With a healthier diet and consistent exercise, you can treat high blood pressure, and significantly reduce your risk of mental decline and even dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Bad Weather Fitness: Bringing the Outdoors Indoors

As much as we love and are committed to outdoor fitness and have a lot of the best gear to continue out there even in bad weather, we have to admit that sometimes, some days it is just better and even safer to find an indoor alternative. We have some creative ways for you to take the outdoors indoors and still experience somewhat of an outdoor activity and practice some of your favorite outdoor skills in the worst of conditions, for bad weather fitness.

  • Climbing Gyms: These places are pretty cool and not just for experienced genX and millennial rock climbers. Climbing gyms offer classes and introductory sessions for complete newbies. They provide a safe environment with a wide variety of skill levels and trained staff to teach you the, ahem…ropes (sorry, couldn’t resist!). You will be safely harnessed and belted with top-roped climbs up to about 60 feet or so. Top rope climbs have a carabiner secured to a ceiling bolt with the rope running through it. Some gyms also have the option of bouldering which is done closer to the ground with safety crash pads and doesn’t require harnesses or ropes. Standard gym clothes, not too loosely fitting are just fine. If you start to get into it, some good rick climbing shoes will be your first purchase.
  • Ice-skating: Yes, pretty old fashioned, but it is a great workout and appeals to people of all ages. Skates are rented, so the only gear you need to have are your typical cold weather gear and perhaps a pair of knee pads. You are sure to get in a great cardio workout!
  • Run the Rain Forest! Well, ok, indoor arboretums or conservatories is what we are talking about. Most major cities have an indoor botanical garden or conservatory and if it is not too crowded, you may be able to sneak in a power walk! Check out this list of the top 10 indoor gardens in the world and also the top botanical gardens and conservatories in the US. Check out your local or regional parks department for a list of public and private conservatories in your area.
  • Skiing! Yes, indoor ski parks are growing nation and worldwide. If you just can’t wait until there is enough real powder near you, check this out. Some of these have manufactured snow, others are actually snowless! You will be surprised at how many indoor ski parks there are and one just may be bear you.

So don’t despair with the yucky weather outside, there are options that will see you through the worst of it and keep you in shape for your favorite outdoor activities.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Simple Strategies to Safely Increase Workout Intensity

By Janet Luhrs, www.simpleliving.com

Ready to push yourself a little? I’m hoping you’re not one of the people I periodically see on exercise bikes reading a book and hardly peddling!  

If you want to go past simply maintaining what you have, and stay as fit as you can, then try pushing your body to the next level. 

Guess what! You can push yourself safely by working smarter, and not necessarily longer. Increasing workout intensity is not complex, but with a simple understanding of how your body responds to workout challenges, you can see your fitness step up a noticeable notch and feel good about your efforts.

  • HIIT: High Interval Intensity Training in a nutshell is exerting full out effort in short, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. As a result, your heart rate is repeatedly spiked up to the highest intensity and your body not only burns more calories in a shorter period of time, you increase your cardio strength much more quickly and efficiently. A bonus is that instead of spending 45-60 minutes in boring cardio, you can shorten your workout time. Exercise science studies has proven that HIIT proponents have increased metabolisms long after the workout is over. After warming up for 10 minutes, try alternating each of the following with 30 seconds of jogging recovery in between each exercise: 10 jumping lunges each leg, 20 push-ups, 10 burpees, 10 high knees, 10 tricep dips, 10 side lunges, 10 bear crawls. The great thing about HIIT training is that it is strength training, cardio and fat burning all in one workout with long term effects.
  • Negative emphasis: Many people forget that when lowering a weight in an exercise, you are doing the 2nd half of the exercise, so don’t waste it! Take the time to do this slowly, and instead of just returning to the starting position, you are doubling the challenge to the muscle set. Count slowly to six while lowering and the target muscles will have to work harder.
  • Add more weight: You should max out at between 15-20 reps and be at a challenging weight. If you are not stressing reps #17-20, your weights are too light. For arms and upper body, add 5-10 lbs. For legs, add 10-15 lbs.
  • Try super sets: Do two sets of different exercises (to opposite muscle groups) back to back, with no rest in between. This exhausts a single muscle group and promotes muscle growth due to fatiguing the muscles during the second set. For example: do 10-20 reps of chest presses, immediately followed by incline bench dumbbell presses. For legs, do a set of squats followed immediately by a set of quad extensions.

You get the idea. Step it up this way for three weeks and you will see more gains than you would in eight weeks following your previous method. Get back to us and let us know how it is going for you, we would love to hear!

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