Frame Magazine



Older adults can find balance exercises to be very beneficial in a number of ways. Stability exercises are the foundation for moving safely that can aid in keeping the aging brain healthy and sharp. New research out of Scotland refuted the age-old ideas that crossword puzzles and learning a new language are the best ways to diminish cognitive decline in older adults. New outcomes of a study on 700 people born in 1936 show that exercise is absolutely the most beneficial activity to stave off negative cognitive changes during the aging process. In contrast, previous ideas for brain health recommended reading, playing brain stimulating games, or visiting with friends and relatives. The recent study showed that those activities did virtually nothing to enhance brain function in the elderly. The Scottish study revealed that exercise leads to better brain health. In general, exercise increases circulation in the body and brain and brings oxygen and nutrients to the brain. One brilliant aspect of this study was to define the exercise level needed to maintain good cognitive health. The researchers broke down exercise levels into a six point scale. The easiest exercise level was described as moving only in connection to household activities. The highest level of exercise involved intense sports activity several times a week. The study was able to delineate the difference between casual, leisure movement activities verses high level, intense activities. Researchers determined that higher level of physical activity resulted in less brain atrophy, less shrinkage and less brain damage. On the other hand, they found no correlation between leisure activities or activities of daily living at home and brain health. As a result, those people who remain physically active at a high level retain good brain health and show limited cognitive decline. Balance exercises are the starting point for better brain health. The study out of Scotland showed that high levels of intense exercise are needed to bring good circulation to the brain, which maximizes cognitive health for older adults. In order to be able to perform high level activities, every individual needs to have a good foundation of balance abilities. For sports activities like tennis, the individual requires stability in side to side movements to make different ground strokes and volleys. For the ever popular sport of skiing, the person needs excellent balance reactions to manage moving boards on slick surfaces-snow, ice and powder.These balance skills can be developed through daily balance exercises. By stabilizing in challenging situations like with a narrow base of support or with dynamic challenges like turning the head side to side while balancing, the person’s balance reactions are maximized. One of the best ways to advance balance skills is to practice everyday at home. Research has found that practicing balance routines every day promotes the necessary balance reactions needed to improve balance. Balance exercises cannot be haphazardly performed on a hit and miss basis. The take home message is to practice your stability routines every day. (By Suzie Stoke)