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Make 2011 the Year of Exercise

Someone once said that the difference between an optimistic resolution and a futile pipedream is two days. (Bah-DUM-bum)

Resolutions are fueled by New Year’s Eve toasts, but dashed in the cold light of January reality. Despite estimates that about 97% of all resolutions fail, between 40 and 45% of Americans keep the faith and make New Year’s resolutions year after year after year. This year, scientific research tells us that there may be a new reason to make (and keep) a resolution:  Regular exercise can slow the aging process and reduce the risk of dementia, diabetes, and some cancers.

An article published in the December 2010 issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice, reviewed 40 papers and found that exercising is one of two behaviors most likely to affect health (the other is smoking). We’ve heard this same information for years, but somehow when it gets puts together in one giant review paper, it feels more real and more powerful.

Everything is made better by exercise, from physical appearance to overall health to longer life (with better quality of life in the end years).

A different study, this one by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), looked at people ages 65 to 85 who carried a high-risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease. According to ScienceDirect:
…those who exercised showed greater brain activity in memory-related regions than those who were sedentary. The results suggest that physical activity promotes changes in the brain that may protect high-risk individuals against cognitive decline, Including development of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our study suggests that if you are at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the benefits of exercise to your brain function might be even greater than for those who do not have that genetic risk,” says [J. Carson Smith, an assistant professor of health sciences at UWM].
The recommendations for how much to exercise aren’t extreme:
  • Healthy adults aged between 18 and 65 should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week, such as 30 minutes of brisk walking, five days a week. And people who undertake more vigorous intensity exercise, such as jogging, should aim for 20 minutes three days a week.
  • Healthy adults should aim for two strength-training sessions a week that work with the body’s major muscle groups.
  • Older people can benefit from exercise that helps to maintain their balance and flexibility.
  • People who are physically active should continue to exercise even when they become middle aged or elderly and those who aren’t should increase their physical activity.
Improving Your Chance of Keeping a Resolution
Making a resolution is simple…keeping a resolution is very difficult. To improve your odds:
  • Choose ONE resolution to keep your focus and not feel overwhelmed.
  • Make your goal reasonable. For example, instead of vowing to exercise every day of the week, make a resolution to exercise most (4 or more) days of the week.
  • Make a plan for how to deal with setbacks. At some point, you will not be able to keep your resolution—even dedicated athletes have setbacks in training. If you know how you will deal with it, the setback will be less likely to derail your whole exercise plan. It doesn’t matter how you choose to deal with it, as long as you have a plan.
  • Enlist support. Ask a friend to walk with you, or hold support meetings, or call to talk about your progress.

Good luck!

Resources

ScienceDaily: Importance of Exercise for Those at Special Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

ScienceDaily: Regular Exercise Reduces Large Number of Health Risks Including Dementia and Some Cancers, Study Finds

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