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The Benefits of Life-Long Sports

The Benefits of Life-Long Sports

middle-aged-woman-playing-tennis-200-300Not only can playing sports at any age help you maintain your strength, stamina, balance, flexibility and coordination, the benefits are actually cumulative over time. That means the more adults participate in sports throughout their lifetime, the more they will benefit as they reach the age where joint problems and declining energy become a problem. For people to enjoy the most benefit, they should begin to consciously “ramp-up” their physical activity in early adulthood to support the continuation of active leisure time activities throughout later phases of life.

Playing sports into mid-life allows adults to maintain physical capabilities that will help reduce their risk of developing age-related problems that are often tied to inactivity, including heart disease, colon cancer, stroke and diabetes. In addition, sports burn calories and help prevent weight gain as metabolism slows as part of the aging process. Sustaining their physical health through middle age and into their senior years will allow them to continue participating in more of the activities they enjoy and to maintain their independence longer. Not only will staying active help them enjoy better health, it will also improve their longevity.

Sports Participation Increases Energy, Improves the 3Ms

Most of us recognize that exercising actually increases our general energy levels. This is true at any age, including 50 and beyond. But did you know that it also improves the 3Ms—memory, mood and mind? Participating in sports helps adults stay motivated and provides a release from stress. Many also enjoy the chance to compete against other athletes in their age bracket. Benefits are important to both men and women in the over 50 category.

Popular Sports for Older Adults

Obviously, most older adults are not going to jump into sports like tackle football, rugby, lacrosse or ice hockey, but there are a large number of sports that will help them strengthen muscles, build stamina and maintain their balance, flexibility and coordination. Many of these also offer great opportunities for social interaction and will help seniors feel better all the way around.

  • Increases stamina and strengthens legs. Can also encourage core strength and flexibility.
  • Enhances breathing, improves bone density, reduces body fat and maintains reaction time.
  • Not a physically demanding sport, and well-suited for those who are not in the best physical shape. Sharpens hand-eye coordination and offers mental and social benefits.
  • Increases energy and stamina with minimal risk of muscle and joint injury. Increases flexibility and tones muscles, offers aerobic exercise for improved heart health and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improves coordination, balance and can improve mobility.

Although the greatest benefits from playing sports occur in those who have continued to engage in sports activity throughout their lives, it is never too late to learn a new sport and enjoy the physical and mental benefits they can provide.

A Guide to Better Napping

A Guide to Better Napping

????????????????????Over the years, our collective human experience has taught us that napping is a good thing. It rejuvenates us and actually makes our brains work better. Need evidence? Some of the greatest creative minds in history have been avid nappers, including Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Salvador Dali!

However, not all naps are created equal. And there’s something of a trick to napping so that you receive the most benefit and minimize the potential drawbacks. The timing and duration of a nap can mean the difference between having an energy-filled afternoon and being sluggish for the rest of the day.

Although your boss may not be pleased to find you napping at work, he or she may be well advised to consider what Churchill had to say about napping: “Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one — well, at least one and a half.” You are likely to be far more productive after a short nap than you would have been by just struggling through the afternoon sleepiness that is natural to our circadian rhythms. We naturally become sleepy in the early afternoon, whether we have had a large lunch or not.

We are a chronically sleep-deprived society, with about a third of the population getting an inadequate amount of sleep on a regular basis. This decreases productivity and increases the risk of mistakes. There is a reason why there is an upsurge in the rate of car accidents the day after we lose an hour of sleep in spring when the clocks move forward. Even an hour less of sleep can make a difference in our cognitive ability. If you find yourself dreaming during a short nap of 20 minutes or less, it’s a sign that you are sleep deprived.

Scientists who study sleep explain what happens in our brain during the three different sleep cycles it goes through: The first two stages are called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which lasts for about an hour, followed by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which lasts for 30 minutes or so (and is when we dream). The second stage of NREM sleep is the deepest sleep, referred to as slow-wave. If you awaken during this stage of sleep you are likely to feel groggy for a while.

Researchers recommend that your nap length should be dependent on what you are trying to accomplish. A nap of 10 to 20 minutes will boost alertness (great for pilots), a 60-minute nap will help to increase cognitive memory processing (a good idea before taking a big exam), and a 90-minute nap helps with emotional and procedural memory (learning to ski, for example) and boosts creativity.

Try to get your nap in between 1 PM and 4 PM, the time when your body is naturally sleepy, and when it won’t cause problems with falling asleep at night. Although the experts have not discovered an “ideal” nap length, Ilene Rosen, a sleep scientist from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine says a “10-to-20-minute nap is really the optimal time in terms of bang for your buck.”

Make yourself as comfortable as possible before napping, and use a light blanket if it helps you get to sleep. Set a timer so you do not oversleep. Sleeping partially upright and drinking a cup of coffee before your nap will help to ensure that you do not sleep too long and that you wake up perky and refreshed.


How to Maintain and Improve Your Memory

How to Maintain and Improve Your Memory

senior man with american flag isolatedNo matter how old you are, you’ve probably already had what is commonly referred to as “a senior moment”. It’s not the least bit unusual to occasionally misplace your car keys or walk into a room and forget what you went there for.

While this sort of thing is not necessarily a sign of declining memory, some types of cognitive ability do seem to decline naturally as we age. Experts have examined how the brain’s functions change as we age and have found that practicing certain behaviors can help you maintain and improve your memory as you get older.

Similar to exercising your body on a regular basis to keep it in shape, exercising your mind appears to help maintain cognitive ability. A study conducted by Dr. Joe Verghese and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the more cognitively stimulating leisure activities that were performed by older adults, the less their risk of dementia. Those who played board games, read, played a musical instrument or danced, for instance, were 63% less likely to develop dementia than those who did not. Other studies have found that the more time people spend learning something, the lower their risk of dementia. Those who know two or more languages develop Alzheimer’s over four years later on average than those who know only one language.

Following are some activities that may help to maintain your cognitive ability:

* Join a book club
* Do crossword puzzles
* Learn a new language
* Play new board games
* Play chess or bridge
* Take an online course
* Go to lectures in your community
* Learn how to play a musical instrument
* Learn how to dance

Studies have shown that what you eat and how much you exercise also have a lot to do with your risk of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. One study found that walking 30 minutes a day for six months significantly improves cognitive ability. And people who do weight training in addition to aerobic exercise benefit more greatly than those who only perform one type of exercise.

Certain foods feed the brain and have been shown to help improve memory and general brain function. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can contribute greatly to maintaining a good memory. Increase your intake of fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and herring, and add an array of colorful vegetables to your plate. Bright red, orange, purple and yellow vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants. Also, studies have found that drinking alcohol in moderation improves the brain’s ability to form and maintain memory, which was not the case for those who either abstained or drank heavily.
Not only can we maintain our cognitive ability as we age, there are ways of improving it as well. The more you use your brain, the more cognitive pathways that are developed and the better your memory becomes. Following are a few tips on how to improve your memory:
* Involve all your senses when learning. The more senses that are involved when learning a new thing, the easier it is to remember. One study found that people who were shown a series of images along with a smell were better able to remember the images, even when the smell was not present.
* Repeat what you want to remember. Speaking information out loud or writing it down helps to cement it in the brain. For example, if you are meeting a new person, repeat their name as you greet them: “So Daniel, how do you know Trish?”
* Repeat things over time. Review information you need to memorize at increasingly longer intervals: first every hour, then every several hours, then every few days. The information will stay in your memory better than if you study it intensively in a short period of time.
* Create mnemonics. Using acronyms to remember information can be helpful. For instance, RICE for acute injuries: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.