We all know the drill: eat healthy, exercise your body, get some sleep, and exercise your mind. Although an easy formula in theory, the hard part is putting all of that into practice. Any healthcare professional (especially those who specialize in working with an aging population) will tell you that the mental side of being health-minded is just as important as the physical side.
The good news: mental exercise can be fun (well, so can physical exercise, but it sure doesn’t feel like it!). Mental stretches include a long list of options:
- Brain teasers
- Word puzzles
- Strategy-based board games
- Learning a new hobby or skill
- Trivia games or shows
- Study another language
- Learn to play a musical instrument
- Read books, magazines, newspaper articles, blogs (like this one!)
- Write poetry or keep a journal
- Enroll in adult education classes
A relatively new concept in brain function, called neuroplasticity, has changed long-held theories that the brain’s capacity to learn and grow stopped at a certain age. Scientists now think that brain development and function continues long into our lives, even for seniors. Research has also indicated that it’s important to introduce new brain-boggling exercises into the mix so that the brain is often challenged. A practice that personal trainers have been telling us about our other muscles for many years.
Now on to physical exercise. Same theory as above, but engaging the rest of your muscles, not just your brain. Our bodies crave stimulation, change, and new challenges. The same rule applies: physical exercise can be fun. And if it’s fun, you might barely notice that it’s also working.
If you have been sedentary for some time, or recovering from an injury, it is always best to start with your primary care physician (PCP). They know your abilities and limitations best, and can help steer you toward a program that is both safe and effective. You can literally ease into an exercise program by incorporating stretches into your daily routine. Most stretches can even be modified to adapt to any physical limitation, even to include wheelchair exercises.
If you would like assistance in developing mental and physical routines that are safe and effective, please give us a call. We can even arrange for help in doing them, if you are interested in discussing more in-depth assistance.