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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Physically Active Teens Have Better Cognitive Function Later in Life

If you were physically active as a teen, you provided yourself with protection against cognitive impairment in your later years according to a study published online June 30, 2010 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  But, if you didn't exercise in your teen years there is no need to despair because this research investigation also found that adults who became physically active later in life reduced their chances of cognitive decline in comparison to their physically inactive counterparts.  Therefore, you are never to old to develop a young mind - exercise can be beneficial at any age.

This cross-sectional study investigated 9,344 women aged 65 years and older (mean age = 71.6 years) who were enrolled in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF).  The subjects provided self-reports  of physical activity levels at different periods in life that included the teen years, the age of 30 years, the age of 50 years, and late-life years.  To assess cognitive function, participants completed a 26-point modified Mini-Mental State Examination (mMMSE) which evaluated memory, concentration, orientation, and praxis.  Other factors that were assessed included medical history, demographics, and smoking history.

Overall, those participants who engaged in physical activity had lower rates of cognitive impairment later in life than those who were physically inactive throughout life.  When the different periods in life were compared (teen years, age 30, age 50, and late-life), those women who reported being active as a teen were significantly less likely to experience late-life cognitive impairment than those individuals who reported being inactive during the teen years.  However, those women who became physically active later in life (age 30, age 50, and late-life) experienced a reduced risk for cognitive decline - approximately half the risk - compared to those women who remained sedentary with advancing age.

The investigators state that their findings highlight the need to encourage physical activity early in life and throughout the life span to reduce the risk for cognitive impairment later in life.  And, that individuals who were sedentary early in life should be made aware that they can still obtain protective effects by beginning an exercise program later in life.

Tips to get your Teen to Exercise:

  • Provide teen-friendly magazines and books that depict healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Allow participation in active play video games (e.g., Wii Fit Plus).
  • Make it social (e.g., dance parties, ski weekends, etc.,).
  • Suggest new experiences (e.g., archery, geocaching, backpacking adventures, etc.,).
  • Plan active family vacations (e.g., hiking and/or biking tours, etc.,).
Tips to Begin an Exercise Program Later in Life:
  • Seek physician approval first.
  • Start slow.
  • Take advantage of workplace fitness programs and incentives.
  • Invite a friend or family member.
  • Sign up for races or recreational fitness activities whose proceeds benefit charities.
  • Set personal goals and reward self when they are accomplished.
The important thing to remember from the findings of this study is that you are never too old to be young.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, seek the medical advice of your physician especially if you are at risk for or have known chronic disease.

J AM Geriatr Soc 58:1322-1326, 2010, "Physical Activity Over the Life Course and Its Association with Cognitive Performance and Impairment in Old Age," Middleton, L.E. et al.,.

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