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hippocampusWhile performing Kettlebell swings or some medicine ball throws, I get the question, “What does that exercise work?”  The answer is “My brain.”  I quickly explain how optimal training activates your nervous system and builds the neurons and synapses necessary for brain health.  A research query of great interest is the impact exercise has on the aging brain.  The New York Times, December 31, 2016 article by Dr. Lisa Felman Barrett, *How to Become a ‘Superager’, presents some interesting research.

The article discusses the research results that studied functional MRI scans of the brains of superagers.  Superagers are elderly individuals that score well on tests of memory, task attentiveness, and planning.  These MRI evaluations looked at both the anatomical and activity differences in various locations of the brains of these cognitively adept older adults.  The researchers and Dr. Feldman Barret give us some recommendations on lifestyle challenges that produce a superager brain.   It involves some consistent involvement in strenuous exercise activity and ongoing intellectually challenging tasks.

*New York Times, December 31, 2016, Dr. Lisa Felman Barrett, How to Become a ‘Superager’.  See the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/31/opinion/sunday/how-to-become-a-superager.html?_r=0

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS



WORKOUTFitness training for those of us past 40 years of age is more complicated. Physical performance and recovery capacity are dramatically different. If you need proof, look for the forty year olds in the NBA or NFL. The good news is that with proper planning, consistent performance, and the wisdom that comes with age, we can stay fit and active for a lifetime. I have compiled a collection of tips for the forty plus fitness client.

Punch the Clock
I am a big fan of what strength coach Dan John calls “punch the clock workouts.” Go to the gym with a plan and complete a quality training session that leaves you feeling good and not gassed. Eat well, sleep soundly, and repeat.

Keep it simple and well within your capacity to recover.
High intensity training routines are currently all the rage. The Tap Out, Insanity, Ripped in 30, P90x home fitness videos all operate at fairly high levels of exertion. It is difficult for anyone of average capacities to sustain that level of training on a consistent basis.

Competitive exercise protocols that involve performing “as many reps as possible” in a defined period of time are omnipresent on the internet. Competition creates a training environment that impedes good judgment. “Men will die for points” is a common quote that I hear in certain training circles.
As a physical therapist who treats exercise related injuries, I can state that pushing the exercise envelope and forty years plus is a dangerous combination. You may have another injury in you, but you may no longer have the capacity to fully recover from that injury.

In the long run, the guy or gal with the fewest “dings and dents” is the one who is able to remain in the fitness race. I like the idea of “user friendly” fitness activities. Training does not have to be complicated or overly intense. Get better at moving a weight or your body through three sets of eight, four sets of six, or two sets of twelve. Perform five or six exercises with your chosen set/repetition range. Take a long walk every day of the week. Consistency is King– eat, sleep, rest, and then repeat.

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS