Exercise and the Brain
The 21 physical factors address all of the above concerns through physical and mental training. Different factors will be more relevant for different concerns.
If we can move our joints regularly in a pain-free way, we can maintain our mobility.
Watch how a young child or toddler moves! Down on the floor; dashing across the room; sitting cross-legged with ease; upside down one minute, then back upright. Do you still move with freedom, fluidity and ease?
Our joints are those places where two bones meet. They hold the bones, teeth and cartilage together and they allow us to move in all sorts of ways. There are several different types of joints in the body, designed to serve specific purposes, in particular, mobility. Most of them contain a fluid (synovial fluid) within the joint space. The fluid helps cushion the ends of the bones and gives freedom of movement.
Many of us expect that as we age our joints are less likely to move as freely as they used to. This is not a function of age, however, but because we move them less as we grow older. By moving our joints, in a pain-free way, we can keep our joints healthy and enjoy an active life into our old age.
As we age we tend to lose strength in our upper body. For many of us, the muscles of our upper body seem to weaken as we age. This affects our ability to raise our arms to store things onto high shelves; to reach behind us to pull that zipper; to lift the shopping bag or a heavy box up from the floor. Reduced upper body strength increases our risk of injury, lead to disease and lessen the quality of our life. “Use it or lose it” is certainly true for our upper body strength.
Swimming provides great opportunity to maintain, or even improve, upper body strength. Ageless Grace® uses the techniques of swimming to help maintain or improve your upper body strength. It also engages your imagination, creativity and sense of humour! At the same time you can expect to experience improved left-right brain coordination. All without having to change out of your clothes, or even get wet!
Allowing us to live a full and active life, unhampered by our inability to do more than one thing at a time
As we get older, our brains tend to get slower. The activities we used to juggle when we were younger may not be relevant any more, but others take their place. Multi-skilling involves following several activities at the same time. We need to be able to multi-skill for the many activities that we do throughout the day. In following a recipe, for example, we have to measure the ingredients using our eyes at the same time as we pour or cut. We may need to be on the phone at a crucial time in the cooking. Without our ability to multi-skill we would not be able to complete these tasks.
Playing a musical instrument is great for multi-skilling – and your brain. Making music may involve several body parts all doing different things at the same time! The pianist reads the music, plays the notes, uses the pedals and maybe even smiles or sings with the audience! What a wonderful brain we have to be able to achieve these things.
The Ageless Grace® tool for multi-skilling is based on being part of an orchestra. Air guitar at its best!
Not only massaging our body systems and organs but also maintaining core strength.
How would you like to massage your internal organs and body systems at least once a week for about three minutes. All to music you enjoy. Well, Ageless Grace® has an exercise tool that does just that.
Watch an animal walk, hunt, crawl or pounce. The animal’s organic movement massages the internal organs across each other. The endocrine, lymphatic, circulatory and other systems also are massaged. All good and nourishing for our health.
Come to an Ageless Grace® class, sit in a chair and move like an animal to give yourself that massage. You’ll also improve your breathing and blood flow, strengthen your core – which assists with fall prevention, and get your sense of humour working. All good and nourishing for your health.
Helping in fall prevention.
Stability is the ability of a person to remain balanced and not fall or shake, which is often a very real fear for the elderly. When we feel stable, we feel balanced, grounded and safe.
Moving in a slow, controlled manner can help improve stability. Tai chi is often recommended as an exercise that helps with fall prevention. Ageless Grace® uses slow, controlled movements to music – while seated – that not only brings stability to the ligaments and joints but also brings relaxation, better eye-hand coordination and greater muscle control.
Take an Ageless Grace® class and enjoy feeling the sensation of stability as you slowly move in your chair to relaxing music.
Helping ourselves live in comfort and ease.
It appears that the main reason we become less flexible as we get older is because of changes in our connective tissues and, to a certain extent, because of dehydration in our body. When we stretch, it is believed that lubricants are produced (or retained) between the connective tissue fibres are produced (or retained). Through exercise we may improve flexibility or delay indications of reduced flexibility.
Have you ever handled a piece of beef or chicken and noticed the filmy tissue over its surface? This is fascia or connective tissue (also know as myofascia), a strong, dense tissue which surrounds all the muscles and bones of the body and helps the muscles slide over the bones. In a healthy state the fascia is soft and relaxed. It should move easily around the muscles and bones. With inactivity and age it appears to tighten up causing problems such as headaches, pain, numbness and reduced flexibility. Injury and trauma, stress, repetitive motions and lack of flexibility also cause tightening of the fascia.
Prepare yourself for the unexpected so that you can continue along your merry way!
Slowing down is often accompanied by slower reaction time. We could be walking along the street when suddenly someone cuts across our path. Initially we feel startled, sometimes to such an extent that we may start to lose balance. Or we could be in the garden and start to slip on a slippery patch. Our body and brain needs to recognise the danger (respond), put itself into a safe, stable posture (react) and then continue as we were before (recover).
Body Math is an exercise tool designed to improve our ability to respond, react and recover. This tool causes us to get mixed up, training our nervous system to be prepared for surprises and to react quickly when something unexpected happens.
Come along to an Ageless Grace® class to try this exercise. Not only does it help you respond, react and recover it also helps energise us and is great fun!
The brain’s wonderful ability to regenerate itself.
Not so long ago, brain science believed that brain functions were limited to one part of the brain only, and if that part of the brain was lost through injury or illness the functionality was gone for ever. But neuroscience has discovered that the brain has the amazing capacity to change itself and restructure itself. Books such as ‘The Brain that Changes Itself‘ and ‘The Woman who Changed her Brain‘ provide useful and interesting reading.
The brain loves a challenge and it loves novelty. Doing new activities creates new neurons in the brain. Ageless Grace® uses skills that we may have learnt as children to open up the neural pathways that have already been created – even if a bit rusty! It also uses new skills or activities that will create new neural pathways. Imagination and creativity, humour and playfulness all work on giving the brain what it needs.
The two articles that follow also provide interesting reading.
Wall Street Journal article called ‘Brain, heal thyself’, by Norman Doidge (February 6th 2015)
‘The Brain’s Way of Healing’ by Norman Doidge, writing about The Feldenkrais Method. This is the story of a girl who was born with part of her brain missing and how the Feldenkrais Method changed her life! (March 2nd, 2015)
Our gait is dependent on our hip flexors, legs and feet.
We need the muscles in the front of our hip joint to be strong. These muscles connect the thigh and trunk and are used in walking, raising the knees and bending from the waist.
Stretching the hip flexors becomes very important as we age but it needs to be done in a way that is not going to cause injury or strain.
Ageless Grace® uses an exercise tool that helps us safely work our hip flexors together with our legs and feet. As with all the exercise tools, the stretching is done in a playful way to uplifting music and encourages people to do the exercises only within their pleasure threshold.
We need to keep moving all parts of our spine to maintain or improve our spinal health and function
What an amazing structure is our spine! It defines our form and posture; it supports our body weight; it protects the spinal chord; it provides the flexibility and strength to hold us erect or to bend and twist. We don’t get to see it but we often feel it.
The spine is made up of 26 individual vertebra and the coccyx and sacrum. In children, the coccyx is made up of four bones and the sacrum five but by adolescence those individual bones have fused together.
You can read much more about the spine (and other parts of the body) by looking at Inner Body, an anatomy website.
All the exercise tools in Ageless Grace® work the torso, which helps the spine. The exercise tool that works on spinal flexibility gently and safely moves the spine in an organic way: bending, rotating, reaching. By encouraging people to follow their hands with their eyes, the cervical spine gets natural movement.
We use our shoulders and upper arm extensively, we need to look after them.
Working all your major muscles keeps you healthy, strong and less likely to suffer injury. It is important to maintain (or restore) strength in your entire upper arm so that you can continue to do tasks such as lifting and raising. For women, especially, sagging upper arms are not a look we would choose and the best way to limit it is to make sure we exercise our arms.
Our shoulders joints are the most movable joints in the body. Think about what you currently do, or about hobbies you may have done in the past that required a great deal of mobility: Sports, such as swimming, tennis, golf; Housekeeping, such as hanging out the washing or house painting; Communicating, such as pointing, and other directional activities.
If we have good good shoulder mobility now, we need to retain it through movement and exercise that work the shoulder joint safely. If you have limited shoulder mobility you still need to move and exercise your shoulders, with care and by not over-extending.
Most shoulder pain occurs around the joints and the incidence of shoulder pain increases with age.
Ageless Grace® has an exercise tool that allows you to exercise your upper arms and shoulders within your own pain-free parameters. In a class, we are mindful that you should not work outside your own safe limits. By working in a playful way on tasks that you already know, while seated in a chair, you can retain or regain mobility, strength and agility in the entire upper arm.
We use our own body strength and increase it using tools.
We can define power as the ability or capacity to perform or act effectively. Simply put, leverage can be defined as doing more with less. In terms of our body this means being able to carry out everyday tasks effectively with the minimum amount of effort. Sounds good to me! We usually use tools to give us the leverage and use the power and strength of our own body to get the action we are looking for. And our body gets stronger.
Ageless Grace® works on power and leverage, too! We use the power of our minds, our imagination, our experience and our sense of fun, combined with our body’s abilities, to increase our strength.
Let’s exercise our facial muscles, exercise our eyes and release tension.
What expressions do you use? Thirty facial muscles, mostly attached to the skin and overlying muscles in the face, help you make the multitude of expressions that the human face can create.They allow us to crinkle up our eyebrows, make a kiss, wink or blink, smile, frown and pout to name just a few. A facial expression, such as joy or fear, is the result of several muscles.
The skull is made up of twenty-two bones – fourteen of them in the face, only eight of them forming the bony protection for the brain. The muscles of the scalp lie in thin sheets. Those muscles can become tense and may cause pain. Like other muscles, we need to release the tension.
We often feel tension in our face, head and neck. Keeping our jaw tight or clenching and grinding the teeth creates tension. It can feel so good to release it.
Ageless Grace® has an exercise tool to help release tension in the face, head and neck. Come to a class and join in the fun as we make all sorts of faces and expressions, exercise our eyes and massage our scalp – all to release tension.
Loss of balance is a major concern because of the risk of experiencing a fall with potential bone fractures and other injuries.
Balance problems can include a wide range of symptoms, from feeling dizzy or light-headed to a fall or near-fall. Balance problems can arise for any number of reasons, including problems with vision, hearing, blood and heart vessels; bones, muscles and joints. If any of these are not working as they should you may find you have problems with your balance. One of the major problems with balance arises from problems in the inner ear (vestibular system). Many medical conditions may cause balance problems.
Ageless Grace® is a seated exercise program which focuses on 3 main balance points in the body. The ‘balance point’ of the feet, the ‘balance point’ in the core of the body and the ‘balance point’ relating to the vestibular system in our ear canals. All the exercises are done to music that people enjoy, conditioning our brain as well as our body to be able to readily access our balance pointy.
The breath of life. As our body changes with age we may need to give our breath a bit of help. Or use it to help us relax.
We all need oxygen which we get from the air that we breathe. Without oxygen the body would not be able to convert our food into energy. In return, we need to get rid of the carbon dioxide which is the waste product from the body’s use of the oxygen. It’s not often that we think about our breath – it just happens. As we age, changes to our body can make it more difficult to breathe. Changes in our skeletal structure can lead to less expansion and greater compression in the rib cage which means that the breathing technique does not come as naturally as it used to. Weakened muscles can have a similar effect.
Ageless Grace® uses a variety of methods to oxygenate our cells. It’s a fun way to move, so it makes us laugh. Laughter is an excellent way to take in oxygen. There is a specific exercise tool that gets us breathing in lots of different ways and speeds.
So take a big, deep breath and come along to a class. If you can’t do that, use the DVDs and Playbook to do these oxygenating exercises at home.
We need to demonstrate our ability to look after ourselves as we age. Dexterity in our fingers and hands is an important part of that.
ADLs are the Activities of Daily Living that are used to assess an older person’s ability to live an independent life. They include things like feeding, dressing, grooming, walking and more. Things like being able to dress oneself, do up buttons and zips, eat without assistance are part of the assessment.
Dexterity in the fingers, hands and wrists helps with the ADLs by maintaining functions mentioned above. Ageless Grace® provides exercises that work on manual dexterity. Flicking fingers, picking up small items, squeezing hands, wiggling fingers are just a few of the movements that are done to a familiar, loved song, with lots of laughter and creativity involved.
Keep the connective tissue healthy to keep mobile, agile and pain free.
Our body’s organs, muscles, bones, vessels and nerves are surrounded by a strong, web-like connective tissue, called myofascia. In a normal state, it creates alignment of bones and muscles and allows freedom of movement. Healthy myofascial tissue is soft but it can become tight and stiff, usually as a result of inflammation and injury. Knots can develop in the tissue that can cause a restriction and lead to pain anywhere in the body. Chronic neck and back pain, muscle spasms, headaches, difficulty breathing and reduced flexibility may all be due to a problem in the myofascial tissue. Emotional stress can also affect tightening in the myofascial tissue, which can lead to chronic pain.
If we don’t move our bodies, the myofascial tissue can becomes tight and stiff. As long as we do not have any trauma or injury, , it makes sense to move and stretch our body in order to keep our connective tissue supple. This movement must be within the pain-free threshold of the individual.
As we do less our muscles weaken and we can no longer do things that we used to. Do movement that stops the decline of muscle mass.
As we age, if we do less incidental movement and exercise, our muscles gradually weaken and we may find that we can no longer do things that we were once quite capable of. Therefore, it is vital that we keep moving as best and as often as we can, in order to maintain our overall physical strength, muscle mass and coordination.
Loss of muscle mass may lead to muscle weakness, reduced mobility, and greater risk of injury. Where it used to be thought that this was an inevitable part of ageing, it now appears not to be the case. Exercise is important, and the earlier people start the better. However, if you’ve left it a bit too late for the weight training, or if you were never going to do this anyway, there are Ageless Grace® exercises that you can do that will help reduce the loss of muscle mass and coordination.
Sit in a chair, then bend down and try to touch the floor, come back to a seated position and then reach your arms up above your head. This is a great exercise to get your body moving and to increase your heart rate – all good, healthy movement.
Starting (or continuing) a regular exercise program can delay and reduce the affects of ageing, and in some cases, even reverse some of the declines already brought on by previous lack of exercise. If you can still move, it’s not too late to improve your fitness level and your quality of life.
It is important to choose activities and intensity levels that are right for you and to do the following:
Know your safety limits and the warning signs – work only to a level that does not cause pain
Have a plan. Include bouts of low and moderate intensity exercise; warm-ups, cool-downs and stretches
Be creative and have fun!
If you are just starting an exercise program, Ageless Grace® includes each of the points described above, including having an exercise tool specifically for working the heart muscle, i.e. conditioning and strengthening the heart muscle and at the same time improving bone density. The Ageless Grace® program provides lots of opportunities to be creative and have fun whilst supporting youthful functioning.
As we age, we are likely to have less social contact with fewer opportunities to express our emotions and to enjoy ourselves.
Older people often appear to be less emotional than younger people, but that is likely to be because of their diminished opportunities for social interaction rather than a physical or neurological reason. However, watch a group of senior friends as they share a meal or an activity and you will will more than likely see lots of emotional expression going on and enjoyment to be had.
Doing something you enjoy, especially if it is shared with other people gives lots of opportunity to get in touch with and show your emotions. Sharing memories of the past can trigger emotions, many wonderful and some perhaps sad.
Social interaction is an important part of an Ageless Grace® class, as is encouraging the ability to show and feel our emotions and to have fun.