I'm on Month 11 of my gym membership now and unlike many who join, I've stuck with it. If I'm in town, I'm at yoga two mornings a week. I'd go more if they offered it but since they don't, I'm settling for that. Even though the poses aren't as foreign to me now, the workout is still a challenge. And when class is over, I do my daily miles on the treadmill. Yes, sir...my Tuesday-Thursday routine is pretty well set.
Well, that was the case until the week of Thanksgiving when we didn't have yoga because the instructor was gone. Some of my fellow yoga-mates convinced me I should join them for the class that meets after yoga...Muscle Max. You'll like it, they said. It'll be good for you. Note to self: Never trust yoga-mates again.
Good for me was questionable the day after when I could barely move but they were right...I did like it even if I stunk at it. The instructor joked that I couldn't make a decision about the class after attending only one and I had to come back. So I did. And when the schedule came out for December, I signed up to continue the class. I still stink at it but I'm getting better. At least I think I am although I still am stiff and sore the day after. Must mean I'm working muscles that aren't getting used otherwise...right?
Maybe that's why I was so interested in an article in USA Today last week. It was about how excited researchers were about a new study showing that people who burn off the most energy have healthier, younger brains than adults who do less. It seems that not only are greater caloric expenditures better for your waistline, they also relate to larger gray matter volume, including the hippocampus, and apparently the hippocampus is the first area that's affected in Alzheimer's disease since it deals with short-term memory.
Scientists speculate that physical activities such a walking, dancing, bicycling and even raking may maximize the effectiveness of the brain even if started later in life. And some participants who had shown signs of mild cognitive impairment improved after raising their level of physical activity. Doing puzzles and learning something new may do things for other areas of the brain and stave off Alzheimers but this research focused on activities that improved cerebral blood flow which, in turn, strengthen neuronal connections.
Though the study shows a link between activity and brain health, scientists aren't ready to say activity preserves brain matter. It could be that people with bigger brains are just more physically active.
I'm not taking any chances. If you're looking for me on Tuesdays, you'll find me in yoga class...or strength training...or on the treadmill. I'm busy bulking up my biceps and maybe my brain too.