Use it (your body) or lose it (your brain)

Physical movement wards off dementia and speeds healing

Photo by Mark Timberlake on Unsplash

Recent research shows that a modest amount of exercise (golfing, walking, hiking, swimming, dancing, biking, etc.) reduces the risk of dementia by 40 percent. “Modest” is defined as three times per week for 15 minutes or more. This particular study was the first to report interaction between physical function or activity and dementia risks.

The frailest participants in the study benefited the most, so it seems that it is important to use it, even after you start to lose it. Which means that even if you consider yourself too old or if you have never exercised, you can benefit by starting today.

I invite you to stand up and walk. Doesn’t matter if it’s around the lake, the block, or the kitchen table. Then, call me and tell me about it. A consultation with a professional can increase your motivation, reaffirm your adherence to activity. It is gratifying to see scientific confirmation for what we have instinctively known for years. Like many of us, I grew up watching exercise pioneers Jack Lalanne and Lilias Folan. At the time, they were considered a little “kooky” and counterculture. In those days, Western medicine was held in high regard. Medical doctors were respected as god-like magicians and miracle workers. Now we have begun to realize that Western medicine has limits and we are individually responsible for our own wellness. It is simpler to prevent the body’s dysfunction than to make corrections. Yet we learn valuable skills from responding to injury and disease of the body.

My client Wayne is an avid golfer. Since he was 16, it has been his life’s passion. So when he tore his rotator cuff, it was a significant opportunity for growth. As it was a major tear, his healing included surgery and uncomfortable rehabilitative physical therapy sessions. The benefit of the injury was that he discovered that he could play with one arm. He also learned more subtle adjustments to improve the mechanics of his swing. And, while he doesn’t stretch daily as I recommend, he is committed to increasing the frequency and duration of his stretch sessions. This is crucial to maintaining his range of motion, flexibility, and the fluidity of his golf swing. In addition to his Pilates exercises to increase his range of motion and strengthen his core, he scheduled massage sessions three times per week. The combination of flexibility and massage accelerated his healing process.

So if you are committed to reducing your risk of dementia, you must keep moving. And the best forms of exercise activity are the ones that you enjoy, include people you enjoy and enhance the quality of your life.

Julie Mueller runs Mueller Orthopedic and Medical Massage LLC in Minneapolis.