Smart Exercise and Aging: How Exercise Improves Cognitive Function

Growing up is not the same as growing old; a thought that Peter Pan struggled to grasp, while Wendy Darling proved to be true. The former is a choice and latter is simply inevitable. Unfortunately, since we’re not movie characters, we’re forced to face this truth daily.

Growing old means aging, a continuous process that shows on the outside and is felt on the inside. May is National Physical Fitness Month, the perfect time to discuss the benefits of staying physically fit. These benefits actively and continuously work to lower the risk of future health issues that come naturally as we age.

The Institute of Medicine just released a report (Cognitive Aging –An Action Guide for Individuals and Families) that examines how aging affects attention, thinking and decision-making. The suggestion is that staying physically active, taking control of your cardiovascular health and getting adequate sleep all help in keeping the brain healthy and alert.

The study on Cognitive Aging reveals the number one action you can take to help protect your cognitive health as “being physically active,” and noted that middle-aged and older adults who exercise regularly tend to score higher on thought-based tests. A conclusion was also made that healthy hearts and blood vessels lead to healthier brains. By avoiding activities that hurt your cardiovascular system, such as smoking, hypertension and diabetes, your lower risk of stroke, which can be a major cause of cognitive impairment.

This study also explained that exploring various hobbies and spending quality time with family and friends are two of the best way to keep your brain active. In fact, adults who engage in artistic hobbies, such as painting, drawing and sculpture, are 73% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who don’t.

Brain neurons die as you age, meaning cognitive decline is unavoidable. Though staying fit, healthy and active are not cures for aging, they do work to preserve your cognitive health, and ultimately make it easier to carry out daily activities that might become harder due to cognitive aging, such as paying bills, driving, following recipes, pursuing favorite activities and maintaining a sense of identity.

The Cognitive Aging study validates for all the Peter Pans in the world that living a healthy lifestyle can help improve the unavoidable process of aging and reduce the challenges that come with it.  With the help of “wearable technology,” devices that monitor the inner-workings of your body without disrupting your appearance, we can easily monitor, adjust and improve our current physical state for a healthier future.

Fitness and Exercise Apps

By maintaining a regular exercise routine, we can greatly improve our chances of staying healthy, active and independent. In a society filled of technology created to make our lives simple and easy, the following devices help our fitness efforts by gently nudging us off the couch and into a healthy and active lifestyle.

  • NikeFuel®, Fitbit® and Jawbone® are the industry’s leaders in wearable fitness technology. Designed and worn like a watch, these bands measure your physical activity throughout the day and sleep patterns throughout the night to help set goals, track progress and collect health data. All of these devices come with a partnered mobile app to visually track your progress. However, they also sync with other apps, such as food-trackers, calorie-counters and community-builders in an effort to provide a 360 view of your lifestyle journey.
  • GymWatch®, an elastic band worn on the arm or leg, syncs with a mobile app to provide real-time review and feedback throughout your exercise. The feedback you receive is compiled by measuring your range of motion and strength exerted, in order to provide adjustments that maximize your results.
  • SmartMat® is a tech-enhanced yoga mat that aims to improve and refine your practice. This mat uses pressure sensors to detect your alignment and provides real-time feedback to help you perfect your pose through a paired mobile app.
  • Valedo® helps people of all ages work towards strengthening their back to prevent future damage. Wireless sensors, which attach to your chest and lower back, pair with an app to monitor and improve your movement through a series of exercises that are created to provide fun and entertainment, and essentially mimic video games.
  • BioSport™ headphones function as normal ear buds but also monitors your heart rate to provide biometric data and feedback. As heart rate directly correlates to how hard our body is working, it’s easier to gauge the intensity of our workout and adjust accordingly to meet specific goals.
  • Apple Watch™, probably the most anticipated item to hit the consumer market, is very similar to the fitness wrist bands mentioned above. Yes, this watch tells time and functions as a communication device, but the real highlight is the way it monitors your daily activities. Combining the purpose of a tracking app within the actual device, three separate metrics are displayed on the screen:
  1. Time spent standing
  2. Time spent exercising
  3. Time spent simply moving

These devices are wonderful on their own, but their paired exercise apps take your workouts and fitness to new levels, as they provide analysis of the data our devices collect.

The fitness apps break down activities to provide us with feedback to help reach our greatest potential. Without regulation of our fitness, our efforts can simply plateau. However, by receiving feedback on our progress, we can stay motivated and continue to improve our long-term health.

Remember that these fitness and exercise apps only aid your exercise efforts by making your fitness routine more productive; they can’t motivate you to workout – that’s your job.

Have you used any wearable technology to help monitor your fitness and health? If not, how do you stay on top of your physical fitness?

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