No brainer: How exercise improves the mental health of seniors

No brainer

No matter how old you are, exercise is a crucial part of healthy living. However, it grows in importance the older you get as fitness directly improves the mind as well.

As an allied health professional, you can play a large role in assisting members of the older population, ultimately bettering their quality of life. Today, we’re going to look at one of the ways you can do this, by discussing the physiology behind how the brain is improved by fitness, and the types of exercise that you can apply to sharpen the mind of your older clients.

Physical activity and mental health

The brain’s volume peaks in the early 20s and only gets worse as we age.

Research has found that the brain is just like any other muscle in the body – it can depreciate when it is not used to its fullest potential. According to the American Psychological Association, the brain’s volume peaks in the early 20s and only gets worse as we age. This is due to neuronal atrophy, otherwise known as dendritic loss, which reduces the effectiveness of neurons resulting in the brain’s ability to process information to decline.

Additionally, ageing bodies have a reduction in blood flow, especially to the frontal cortex. This area of the brain is in charge of things like speaking and organising, but it also influences the parietal cortex (in charge of the body’s visumotor performance) and the medial temporal area (in charge of long-term memories). Without proper blood flow, the frontal cortex can’t function to the best of its ability impacting the actions associated with it.

So, just how does physical activity improve mental health conditions like these? Well, regular exercise (for at least 30 minutes at a moderate pace) gets the blood pumping and circulating around the brain more efficiently. Harvard Medical School explains that physical activity reduces insulin resistance, inflammation and stimulates growth of brain cells and even new blood vessels.

Better memory and overall brain activity is improved with regular fitness. Better memory and overall brain activity is improved with regular fitness.

Breakdown of exercises

At this point, you might be wondering if there are any exercises that are better for senior mental health than others. And the answer is, yes! Aerobic exercises are the best for seniors, however, they need to be adjusted for ageing bodies. In particular, you want to aim for aerobic activities that balance physical and mental components. These are some of the activities allied health professionals can include into their routines with seniors:

  • Swimming and aquatic aerobics: Water sports are particularly good for the body as the mind has to focus on how to perform each stroke, whether they be swimming laps or performing a fitness routine. The water also helps relieve pressure from joints, while putting pressure on muscles.
  • Dancing: Dance requires using your brain to remember the steps as much as it requires the muscles to move the body around the dance floor. This type of muscle memory is beneficial for the whole body.
  • Rowing Machine: The rowing machine allows you to increase the amount of resistance you wish to pull against, but it’s not a motion you can do absentmindedly. This also requires a decent amount of muscle memory to perform the stroke correctly.

For more information on how to get your Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance (HLT43015) and help improve the wellbeing of the seniors in your community, contact us here at Onfit Training College today.

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