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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Growing Older: Don't Lose It, Use It

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 21st 2008

 I am pleased to announce that there is hope for us older folks who are age 50 and up. The University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands completed and published a study that demonstrates the fact that aerobic exercise is not only good for the cardiovascular system but boosts cognitive functioning, attention, and memory in people who are fifty years old and older. They conducted the study by studying the results of published trials of aerobic exercise in places like the United States, France and Sweden. The results were consistent and convincing.

We have known for a long time that age brings with it a slowing down of brain and physical power. My generation, 65 and older, loves to joke that "we are not older but better." Well, we can be older and better at the same time, or, at least, almost as good.

For instance, aerobic exercise boosts lung capacity and endurance even for older people.

Aerobic exercise  involves continuous , rhythmic activity done from two to seven times per week. In the study, people engaged in this type of exercise for three months and took before and after cognitive and fitness tests to see if there was any improvement. There was great improvement with people increasing their lung capacity, endurance, attention, memory and cognitive functioning.

The explanation for these improvements appears to be that improving cardiovascular fitness increases blood flow to the brain and that stimulates the production of neurotransmitters and the formation of new synapses in the nerve cells of the brain.

It seems safe to say that people of all ages should participate in vigorous physical exercise.

A note of caution:

It is always important to get approval from your physician before engaging in an exercise program. This is especially true if you have  a history of heart disease and high blood pressure. Also, it is important to adopt an exercise program that makes sense. Some people begin with too much ambition, at first, develop muscle soreness and become very discouraged. Ultimately, they give up on exercise. I would suggest that, after approval and advice from your physician, that you get a coach to help you get started on a program that makes sense.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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