Do THIS to Improve Brain Health!

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Hello, friends! All the school-aged kids in my family are back in school again, and now it’s time for ME again! I get so busy taking care of everybody else in the fam that I forget to take care of myself, especially when the children are home for the summer. But, now they’re happily (HA!) engaged in learning, Jacqueline is enjoying her interior design job at Haverty’s (see her for all of your furniture needs :)), and I can focus on getting strong!

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Lifting weights is my FAVE way to workout these days. It’s super important for our bodies to lift weights as we age, especially since the aging process causes us to lose muscle mass, and weight training builds muscle mass. Weight lifting is great for the heart too. It really gets the heart pumping and strengthens the cardiovascular system.

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However, something that I thought was a really cool benefit to weight lifting is that it’s great for the brain. Weight lifting= healthy brain?!! It’s not immediately obvious, is it? But it’s absolutely true and I’m going to tell you all about it.

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Get your workout on!

Exercising improves our memory and cognition, and it also helps to prevent dementia as we age. Additionally, strength training has been shown to have a strong impact on brain function and memory, especially working leg muscles. Also, senior citizens who engage in medium to high intensity exercise can slow brain aging by as much as ten years.

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All this is possible because exercise promotes brain health by releasing hormones like brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) from the muscles, which encourage the growth of new brain cells. Neurogenesis is what this process is called. The memory center of the brain is very adaptable and capable of growing new cells throughout our entire lives, even into our 90’s, provided we live a healthy lifestyle.

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Weight training also increases and improves blood flow to the brain. It reduces damaging plaques in the brain, and alters the way these damaging proteins reside inside the brain, thereby slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it increases production of nerve-protecting compounds, lowers levels of inflammatory cytokines associated with chronic inflammation and obesity, improves development and survival of neurons, and prevents brain shrinkage by preserving both gray and white matter in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortexes.

Another really super advantage to weight training is that it helps eliminate depression, in many cases more effectively than antidepressants, and purges the body of stress chemicals associated with stress-related depression. Wow, that’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?!!

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So that’s what I have to tell you today, wonderful readers. Get out there and work those weights! It can help decrease depression, improve memory and cognition, slows the development of Alzheimer’s, helps prevent dementia, slows brain aging, and can actually increase our brain cells. That makes it worth my while to weight train! Try it, you’ll like it. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

 

LIFT your way to weight loss- and a healthier body!

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That will be me-as soon as my weights are delivered!

That will be me-as soon as my weights are delivered!

So I had a birthday this past weekend, and like most women I hinted at what I wanted for a present. Most of you think I probably asked for jewelry or a new purse, but what I wanted, and received, will probably surprise you. I got a set of weights and a weight bench! Not what you thought, right?! Well, it was the perfect present for me and should be for you too. Let me tell you why.

As we get older, and who isn’t getting older I ask you, our metabolism begins to SLOOOOW DOOOOWN! And we also begin to lose muscle mass too. All that muscle that goes away begins to turn to…. fat unfortunately. Now of course the cornerstone of preventing this from happening starts and ends with a healthy diet. As they say, “you can’t train away a poor diet”, and I truly believe that as all of my previous posts attest. However, I notice that even though I do eat a healthy diet, and carefully control both the amount and kind of calories I am consuming, my body is starting to change in ways I don’t care for.

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I also exercise 5 times a week for 45 minutes per session so it’s not that I’m not exercising, it’s what I’m doing, or in this case not doing that is making the (not so good) changes in my body. I mostly (90%) of my exercise time, do cardio- either biking or kick boxing. I’m not saying that cardio isn’t good, in fact it is essential for a healthy heart and body. What I am saying is that it’s NOT ENOUGH! I must begin integrating weight training into my workout routine and I will, as soon as my weights and bench are delivered (I’m waiting excitedly like it’s Christmas again!).

Here’s the great thing though, even though the salesperson at the fitness store tried to upsell us to the $3,000 machine, we gave that a pass and picked up some basic weights, a bench, a long bar and two dumbbell bars for $350! These are good quality items too, not something that will fall apart or be unsafe for me to use.

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I know some of you have a membership to a health club (that may or may not ever be used :)), and if you do that’s great because I highly recommend a session with a personal trainer so that he/she can help set you up with a workout routine based on your strength and fitness level. However, if you’re a home exercise person (like me!) you can get yourself set up for a few hundred dollars with a quality weight bench and set of weights. I just have never been one of those people who likes to work out with a bunch of other people watching me. I feel self conscious and pressured somehow.

If you’re at home and doing it on your own my suggestion is to start out LOW AND SLOW. Use the lightest weights you are comfortable with and do very few repetitions at first. For instance, start with 10 reps each of-  bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, shoulder presses, squats, calf presses, and inclines for abdominals, beginning with light weights. Do this twice a week and start to add weight and more reps as the weeks go by.

I definitely want abs like this!

I definitely want abs like this!

Another great benefit to strength training is that it is a cardiovascular workout too; when you work out with weights you’re heart is pounding and you are sweating, ie, great cardio workout! Weight training improves insulin and leptin sensitivity (thereby getting rid of that pesky fat that gathers around our mid section) and boosts human growth hormone (HGH) levels, which is known as the fitness hormone. It helps with greater balance too, which decreases as we get older. It also improves bone density, cardiorespiratory fitness (that heart pounding, sweating thing I talked about), improves blood pressure, blood glucose control, aerobic capacity, gene expression, and telomere length- wow who knew! This is all in addition to increasing strength and muscle mass, and improving your body composition (that means looking HOT again!).

So anyway, this is what I’m excited about these days and I will be sure to keep you posted as to my progress. Let me know if you are going to try to integrate weight training into your fitness routine, and we can do this TOGETHER! Strength training is DEFINITELY good for your entire body and will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂