Studies have shown that physical activity reduces cognitive decline. It is fair to say that moving helps us to age gracefully and can improve our memory. Movement doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates heart rate and increases blood flow (enough to break a sweat) is a key lifestyle habit that no human should take for granted.
One of my favorite ways to break a sweat is through yoga poses that are as challenging as they are simple. I am so not talking about hot yoga or pinning your legs behind your head. Quite the opposite actually.
I practice and teach a style of yoga called Yoga Tune Up® that focuses on functional movement originating from a strong core and building an authentic deep internal heat. Yoga Tune Up® includes massage and movements to help break up and release muscle adhesions that limit good movement and range of motion. Practicing yoga in this manner can make you drip sweat even though you are essentially still. Yoga can increase cognitive ability by combining abstract thought, emotion, and physical activity.
My other favorite activity that incorporates deep and abstract thinking with physical activity is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ. BJJ is a self-defense martial art and combat sport based on grappling, ground fighting and submission holds. It is quite literally the yang to yoga’s yin. Practicing the two simultaneously has been the best way for me to find balance in my own body, mind, and spirit. Jiu Jitsu and many martial arts can be effective tools to keep your mind sharp and your body moving while giving you the tools that could save your own life.
Those are my two favorite ways of getting exercise but If you are new to cardiovascular exercises I have a couple of other suggestions to get you going. Like I said, movement doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It just needs to be consistent and challenging to YOUR level.
After I had my son I was never able to get to a class, and I definitely did not feel comfortable exercising in front of anyone. So I made cleaning my house my workout. I am dead serious. I would put on my workout playlist, turn it up loud, and clean/dance for an hour or two. The time went by, the house was clean, endorphins were flowing, and I didn’t have to go to the gym to sweat my butt off. Breaking a sweat from cleaning helped me build stamina and made me feel twice as productive than choring or workout alone. Dance-Cleaning is actually the only way I clean now. If you hear Aretha Franklin blaring from my house, just know my floors are clean and I’m probably a sweaty mess. Stay back.
Recently I, like many of you, learned the importance of a 20 min Walk. During the COVID-19 quarantine, those 20-minute walks helped me reset mentally and kept me from getting too soft physically. (I ate a lot of cookies in March y’all, but whatever, the world was ending.) I started taking walks by myself in the morning and with my family in the evening. I will tell you, I made myself walk even when I didn’t want to because of how great I felt with freshly oxygenated blood and an increased heart rate that wasn’t induced by watching the news or checking Facebook. Taking a brisk walk is a great way to practice cardio. Aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, biking, or running work your large muscles repetitively and pushes your heart and lungs to work hard. Over time, this makes your heart stronger and more efficient. Studies have found that strengthening your heart can also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Okay, this is my last one. But first I have a question for you. When was the last time you played? Like, played so hard you thought your legs were going to fall off or your heart might explode? For me it was last Thursday. My 9-year-old asked me to play laser tag with him at home. We turned off all the lights and ran around the house like crazy people. We were screaming, and laughing, and scaring each other. It was incredible. We were both sweating and out of breath. At the end he looked at me and said “Wow, mom. You keep me young. You’re just like a big kid.” Not only did that make me laugh so hard but it reminded me that just like kids, adults need to play too. We need to play so hard that we have to stop to catch our breath. Maybe chasing your grandkids around for 5 minutes is where you start. Maybe you go play paintball or start a game of tag with your boss. Who cares!? We have got to bring the joy back into movement. Try the monkey bars again. Check out the zipline at the Gathering Place. If I see you swinging on the kids playground I’ll join you. Don’t be embarrassed. Just play!
The sooner we stop moving the sooner we decline mentally and physically. Move to improve. Add these tips to your lifestyle to keep your mind sharp. Check out our Class Schedulesand make sure to follow us on Facebook for events and more fun exercises like these.