Movement and Memory: The Importance of Staying Active as We Age

May 7, 2018


We all know that physical activity leads to healthier bodies and overall improved wellness—from walking to yoga, weight training to swimming, our bodies and outlook are bolstered by exercise. Recent developments in neurological research studies suggest that exercise benefits not just our bodies and mood but our minds as well, specifically the vigor and health of our memory. As reported in the NYT, a recent neurological study found exercise augmented memory, “even in the face of stress, by bulking up […] synapses and buffering the negative effects that stress otherwise would have had on those neural connections.” The implication for humans is compelling. All of us deal with stressful events, many of us chronic stressors, and when we do, our brain’s capacity to communicate slows, compromising our efficiency at memory storage and recall. Exercise, it seems, can counteract that slowed functioning by “bolstering communication between brain cells.” Essentially, we can override the damaging effects of stress and anxiety to our memory by getting active.

As of December 2017, a poll by Gallup found that nearly 80 percent of Americans feel stress frequently or sometimes every single day, with 41 percent saying they don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish their tasks. While those statistics are invitation enough for us to reexamine our culture’s relationship to work and stress, they’re clearly an indication that chronic stress is an inarguable part of American life, particularly work. While we at WAHVE are proponents of the landscape of work changing for the better—shifting to smarter hiring and retention practices, as well as a more efficient and diversified workplace that leverages talent across geographies, demographics, and generations—we also know that change takes time, and that while we can’t change what’s passed, we can shape the past’s impact on our present through daily healthy choices. With that in mind, consider counteracting cumulative stress and sharpening that memory with exercise that’s particularly compatible for older adults, focusing on strength building, muscle mass retention, agility and balance:

  1. Yoga – While it’s low-impact and gentle on your joints, yoga requires you leverage your whole body’s strength, improving balance, core stability and flexibility.
  2. Swimming – Another low-impact form of exercise, swimming is excellent aerobic exercise that will strengthen your cardiovascular fitness and muscles.
  3. Strength Training – A hallmark of the aging body is decreased bone density and muscle mass. Weight training strengthens both your bones and muscles and helps improve your body’s capacity for burning fat.
  4. Walking – Getting out for a brisk walk benefits your lungs, heart, and whole musculoskeletal system. Finding time to walk can often be social too, which is a bonus—meet up with friends, join your partner for a stroll, or enjoy a walk with the grandkids.

 How do you stay active? If you’ve recently taken up exercise, have you experienced an improvement in your energy or memory since taking it up? Share in the comments below!


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