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Use It, or Lose It: Exercise and Physical Activity are Important for Healthy Aging By Tina M. Marrelli, MSN, MA, RN, FAAN Authors’ note: I remember taking Pilates We are so lucky that at this time of year, anytime of year, we can be outside most days. This is paradise for those who regularly exercise outside. I recently had a girlfriend, a real runner, who lived up north, and while training for the Olympic trials, fell on ice and hurt her face and leg. No snow or ice here thankfully. We are blessed to be here! We all want the best function, mobility, flexibility, endurance, and strength we can have and maintain. This is especially true as we age since there are numerous safety implications related to immobility and/or a sedentary lifestyle. Your primary physician or health care provider may advise you to move more, work toward healthier food choices, quit smoking (or never start), and that “exercise” mantra – to just do it! Why is there so much more emphasis now on exercise and other kinds of activities? And why does it seem to be more important than ever? and another strengthening-focused exercise class many years ago and there was a woman there in her late 80’s. I remember thinking I want to be like her when I grow older! There is a large amount of science-based data that supports the need for regular exercise. This may include its ability to improve mood, digestion (you may have heard of the morning walk by grandparents or great grandparents called a morning “constitutional” which helped digestion and related processes), and more. This article focuses on the benefits of exercise that impact safety and our brains. There is a saying that “what is good for our hearts is good for our brains.” This adage recently received some additional support. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that Alzheimer’s Disease currently impacts over 5 million Americans and is projected to increase to 13.8 million for people over 65 by 2050 (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d.). One recent study has implications for us all. An article entitled “Longitudinal Relationships between Caloric Expenditure and Gray Matter in the Cardiovascular Health Study” caught my attention, and it should catch yours too. Published in a peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Alzheimer’s 90 GASPARILLA ISLAND March/April 2017


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