BRING IT TO BARB Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

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Dear Barb,

Do you think exercise can help prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s? I am only 40 years old!

Signed,

Very Scatter-Brained and Forgetful

Dear Forgetful,

Yes, along with drinking tea and taking vitamin D, researchers found that participants who had moderate to heavy levels of physical activity had about a 40 percent lower risk of developing any type of dementia. Those who reported the least amount of activity were 45 percent more likely to develop dementia compared with those who logged higher levels of activity (“USA Today”).

Getting more activity is completely within our control. It doesn’t matter how long your work days are, how many children you have, how old you are… Basically, you just can’t come up with a good enough excuse not to get more activity. If, however, due to health reasons, you can’t take prolonged walks you can still increase the amount of activity you get each day. Here are a few easy tips I can suggest. 1.) If you watch a fair amount of television, use commercials as your cue to get up and move. Do the twist, walk around the house, do squats – just move that body and keep it moving for as long as the commercial break lasts. Do the same thing for each and every commercial break. Those that watch previously recorded shows will need to set a timer every 15 minutes for four minutes. 2.) When you go to the store, take one or two laps around the entire store before you even put the first thing into your basket. Walmart is huge! Park farther away on purpose in the parking lot at all your shopping events. 3.) Even better than working out during commercials, work out during your favorite television show. March in place/run in place, sit and hold your legs straight out in front of you for the count to 10 or 15, bend knees for a count of 15, use a chair to do lateral leg movements or arm lifts with weights using soup cans. Grab an exercise book or log on to Prevention.com for exercise ideas. 4.) Sort or fold laundry, clean or organize a drawer while you are on the phone or on hold, never sitting on the couch until the conversation is over. 5.) Do all of your housework at once — a 30-minute to 60-minute session of housework can be quite a workout. If at all possible, walk. Take nice, relaxing, brain pumping walks every day — use a treadmill or exercise video when the weather isn’t conducive to an outside walk. Bottom line, regular activity and movement is the best way for your body to thrive and stay strong.

Have you or someone you know ever experienced a long sickness or hospital stay and when returning home are noticeably weaker? It’s difficult to do even modest amounts of activity; this is muscle atrophy, which sets in quickly and is twice as hard to gain back strength again. The most common complaint I hear during counseling sessions are about their body pains, weight, and not enough exercise due to time management. Activity by being “busy” can be equal to exercising on purpose. Both will exponentially help you during the aging process, not just to prevent diseases. Your forgetfulness can be a result of many things. Hormonal changes in the body, overly tired or overly obligated can also create absentmindedness. Get a good check up from a doctor with blood work included. Kick up your heels with the grandkids or a friend this holiday season. Trust me, others around you will notice!

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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