The day I began working on this article, a 17-year-old friend of ours said to me, “I wish I could just graduate from high school and go to college. I’m ready to be older NOW.” Calmly, and with a wisdom born of more than a half-century of living and learning, I replied, “No need to rush. ‘Older’ will be here before you know it. Try to relax and enjoy every ‘today’ before you rush off into ‘tomorrow.’”
What I really wanted to say, though, was “Are you kidding me!? Enjoy every moment of every day! Stay healthy and MOVE every chance you get … reach for your dreams, run toward those you love, stretch your imagination and jump at every opportunity to learn! You’ll be 50 before you know it, and you won’t be trying to rush into the next year then, believe me!”
Yes, MOVE every day of your life, in every way, because exercise is not only great for keeping your physiology in check, but it has significant benefits for your brain as well. The extent of health benefits will vary within individuals, but remember that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the detriments of being sedentary.
Remember the old saying “use it or lose it”? That holds true to what happens in your body as you age. Let’s take a look at brain benefits you acquire when you exercise…
- increases learning potential
- reduces cortisol levels in your body
- increases neuron production in your brain
- helps your brain maintain existing memories
- decreases your risk of developing dementia
- helps your brain cells manage the stress response
- helps control depression and anxiety, and increases serotonin levels
- strengthens connections between brain cells
- enhances the immune response to function more efficiently
So whether you’re 17, 57 or 97, remember that exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and being engaged in life are absolutely essential to living a long, healthy, and active lifestyle. And we’re fortunate to live in Athens, because right here is The Athens Community Council on Aging.
The ACCA and other organizations like it offer a wide variety of services to meet the needs of seniors in Athens and surrounding counties. Their mission is to promote a lifetime of wellness through engagement, advocacy, education and support. If you are a senior and want to be active in and around your community, check with the ACCA, your place of worship, your city hall and local recreation department. Many offer programs such as home-delivered meals, support for grandparents raising grandchildren, a foster grandparents program, retired senior volunteer program, senior employment program, senior center programming and adult day health services. The Athens-Clarke County Senior Center also offers wellness programming for seniors in the Winterville and Athens communities. Check out the class catalog at your local community colleges and universities for classes that will challenge you academically or physically. Even some banks offer special educational and fun activities for seniors, including day trips to area historical or entertainment sites.
For more information visit http://www.accaging.org, http://www.aarp.org and other individual organization’s websites for more details on programs and events for helping seniors MOVE and enjoy life.
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