Jan 21, 2009

Exercise and Socialize to Fight off the Risks of Alzheimer's and Dementia

A new study being circulating all over the Internet indicates that:
having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia.
This differs slightly from earlier studies that indicated:
chronic stress can affect parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, and possibly leading to dementia.

My own experience with my mother and other Alzheimer's sufferers indicates that exercise and socialization makes a big difference in daily behavior and ability to function effectively. So, its not hard for me to jump to the conclusion that exercise and socialization keep the brain strong and actually help improve the brain and its functioning.

I have written previously about the brain, exercise, socialization and how a healthy life style can help ward off Alzheimer's.

Here are a few suggestions on how to combine exercise and socialization in a way that might help you ward off Alzheimer's or dementia.

Play Bocce. If you can find a Bocce league join. Bocce provides moderate exercise and forces you to use your brain. You use your brain while deciding which shot to make, but more importantly, you use your brain while sending signals throughout your body.

You need to send signals to your eyes, arms, legs, feet, and your brain tells your knees to bend and how hard to roll the ball. On the surface playing Bocce seems simple to the average observer and it is.

However, there are lots of things happening with the brain and I believe this form of moderate exercise is valuable. In addition to the exercise, if you join a league you will be interacting with other people. Here at the Pines of Delray they get about 30 people for an informal Bocce league.

Since only 4 persons are on the court playing at a time the others get to talk and interact. If you join an informal Bocce league you will find the participants have a great time interacting, laughing, and sometimes "joking" about a shot. I know an 80 year old woman that met a man that interested her while playing Bocce. They recently married.

Join a Wii bowling league. I wrote about Wii bowling previously on this blog. Everyone I know that has tried the game raves about it. The "pro" bowlers will tell you the game really mimics bowling in a real bowling alley. The good news is you do not have to throw a 12-16 pound ball. You use a controller in your hand to make the shot.

Like Bocce there is lot going on between your brain and your body parts. You also get moderate exercise and plenty of socialization. Remember when you were in a "real bowling league"? I have seen people in wheelchairs and using walkers play Wii bowling--so no excuses.

Since I wrote my first article on the Wii, Wii bowling leagues in senior centers and over 55 communities are springing up all over the country. Believe it or not, mini Wii bowling alleys are beginning to open all over the country also. They like it, they really like it.

Walking. Walking is an excellent form of exercise. However, you can improve the experience and build in socialization by finding a walking partner. I know from personal experience when you have an exercise partner you go more often and miss less often. You always have the partner to "prod" you on those days where you don't feel like doing it.

I suggest you walk 22 minutes. I say this because I learned the more you walk the easier it gets and you get faster. After a few days of walking you will start to notice you are going longer distances in the same 22 minutes. This along with the social interaction should help keep you motivated.

Join the Silver Sneakers Program. If you are a senior citizen you can join the Silver Sneakers exercise program. Silver Sneaker holds group exercise classes and you can start at Level 1 if necessary and work your way up to higher levels.

 Most health care companies will pay for your gym membership and membership in the Silver Sneakers program. I am a big fan of Silver Sneakers. You get an excellent low impact workout and plenty of socialization as there are usually about 30 people in a class.

This year Curves was added to the program, so you can go there if you prefer. My sister just turned 65 and she was paying $40 a month at Curves. Now its free for her. Not bad.

I am getting asked more and more frequently about the ways to ward off Alzheimer's. Awareness is growing fast and this is a good thing.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. Bob is a recognized Influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room