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Don’t Slip Up When It Comes to Physical Activity

Don’t Slip Up When It Comes to Physical Activity

When Paul Simon sings Slip Slidin’ Away he’s crooning about the elusive nature of life, love and good intentions. Well, now research confirms how, despite good intentions, it’s all too easy to go slip slidin’ away from the benefits of your regular exercise routine. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to sustain your commitment to move it, not lose it.

Physical activity protects you from cognitive decline (while protecting your cardiovascular system, sex life, balance, mood, and blood sugar levels). That’s because it boosts blood flow to the brain and strengthens neural connections; the same ones that can weaken as you get older. And here’s why you need to stay with it.

A study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience shows you lose benefits of physical activity if you slip up for a while, even if you’re fit. Researchers had a group of serious athletes—ages 50 to 80—hit the couch for 10 days. After measuring their resting cerebral blood flow to the area of the brain that consolidates memory (the hippocampus), they discovered that blood flow declined significantly from day one of rest, to day 10.

So keep moving to keep the long-term, brain-boosting benefits of exercise. Here’s how to stay active:

  1. Get a workout buddy—you’ll keep each other motivated.
  2. Use an activity monitor; set goals (and alarms to get you up and out), assess daily accomplishments.
  3. Mix it up: If you’re bored with one activity, switch to another: aerobics, interval walking, swimming, cycling—even ice skating!

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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