I trust you're safe, fit and well.
All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Strength training is in! Apparently.
Recently, there has been a rush of articles promoting the benefits of more strength training as we age. It may be because of several research papers recently published on the topic.
For example, this week the Washington Post rode the trend with "To stay healthy in old age, research finds building muscles is key". Two decades of research have shown that resistance training can prevent and even reverse the loss of muscle mass, power and strength that people typically experience as they age, says the WP.
This line caught my eye "People think, ‘Oh, I walk,’ but walking will not help you build muscle". So get into a few pushups and squats folks, or if nothing else works for you, use the gym machines a couple of times a week.
Would you give up a couple of hours a month to stave off dementia and to live longer better? It's easier than you think, according to a new study out of University College London - see item #2.
Simultaneously with the rise in anxiety and depression in the older population, we face a dire shortage of counselling. There are very practical things that you can do to proactively develop flexibility in your thinking and fell less trapped - see article #1.
⭑ How we reflect on our own thinking can improve our mental health ✔
⭑ Exercising infrequently but consistently found to stave off dementia ✔
⭑ Magic mushrooms are back, but these are to help you remember, not to forget ✔
⭑ For neck health and less pain, do this one at-home bodyweight exercise ✔
It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health. The challenges have been as acute for older adults as for teens. But while the pandemic has certainly played a role in the decline of older adults' mental health, it's not the only factor at play.
Studies have shown that rates of depression and anxiety in those over-55 have increased since at least 2013 and from then to know have increased by a further 50% or so.
This increase could be due to various factors, including changes in social structures that have led to increased isolation and loneliness and economic insecurity caused by things like inflation and high living costs.
One set of costs which has even outstripped inflationary price rises is the cost of access to mental health counsellors. Here in Australia, there is about a 7-month waitlist in the big cities and months more outside the cities.
⇒ The good news is that there are ways to incorporate some of the lessons of psychotherapy into your everyday life.
By being more mindful of your own thinking and reactions, you can develop greater resilience and better manage your mental health.
What this means for you: Here are three tips to get started, from the article, and they come down to how you treat your own thinking.
1. Choose Reflection Over Reflex: We all have moments when our thoughts spiral out of control. The key is catching yourself when this happens and stepping back. I'd like you to consider other viewpoints and avoid getting caught up in negative thought loops. Taking a more reflective approach can help you manage challenging situations and feelings.
2. Bring Softness, Not Hostility: It's easy to assume the worst about other people, particularly when they say something we disagree with. But it's important to remember everyone has their own story and perspective. Rather than immediately jumping to judgment or hostility, try to approach situations with a sense of curiosity and openness. This can help you develop greater empathy and connectedness.
3. Be Curious, Not Judgmental: The mind is a complex and fascinating thing, and there is always more to learn. Even when our thoughts lead us to uncomfortable or unsettling places, it's important to approach these moments with curiosity rather than judgment. This can help you better understand your own reactions and thought patterns, leading to greater self-awareness and insight.
By incorporating some of these tips into your everyday life, you can develop greater resilience and better manage your mental health. Be kind to yourself - and others - and approach challenging situations with an open mind.
With time and practice, these habits can become second nature, helping you to build a healthier and happier life. I am quite certain of this; it will come to you with consistency.
Back in Newsletter #175 I suggested that consistency was the secret to achieving fitness and better health. (But for most people, "consistency" is not working because people don't know how to be consistent. See my 4 tips in the newsletter.)
Now, guess what, regular exercise, even once a month, has been found to have positive effects on brain health and memory in older age, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at University College London.
Interestingly, the study found that the frequency of exercise was more important than its intensity when it comes to improving cognitive function. In other words, it's not how hard you exercise, but rather how consistently you exercise that matters.
Remaining consistently fit resulted in greater health benefits than taking up intense weekly exercise but then giving up after a few years.
The study followed individuals from their 30s to their 60s and found that even those who engaged in physical activities as infrequently as once a month were able to reduce their risk of developing dementia, as long as they continued the habit throughout their adult life.
What this means for you: This finding suggests consistency and commitment to exercise are more important than sporadically engaging in intense physical activity.
Moreover, the study revealed that it's always possible to start exercising, even if you're in your 60s or later.
Any form of physical activity, whether it's jogging, yoga, or swimming, can help keep your brain sharp and healthy, as long as you keep it up.
In summary, incorporating regular exercise into your routine, even if it's just once a month, can have significant benefits for your brain health and memory as you age.
⇒ Staying committed to a consistent exercise routine can stave off cognitive decline and improve your overall quality of life - meaning you'll live longer better. That's worth giving up a couple of hours once a month.
Related: The Surprising Benefits of Black Tea Daily
@Medium - Follow me on Medium ↗, covering ⭑food, ⭑brain, ⭑body, ⭑life
I'll put this one in the category of "simply amazing"! Mushrooms which have been used to treat ailments and maintain health in traditional Chinese medicine since antiquity, were just recently pronounced by Western scientists to work!!
Simply amazing because otherwise, it could not have been true, right?
Scientists at the University of Queensland found that the active components of the mushroom extract actively promoted hippocampal neurons to form new connections with other neurons in the brain. This is truly amazing, actually, in a non-sarcastic way.
The "active components largely increase the size of growth cones, which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain", said the scientists.
⇒ Preclinical trials report the compound significantly impacted neural growth and improved memory formation.
What this means for you: This is big news, for the West at least. It has obvious applications related to treating and protecting against neurodegenerative cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
OK, so what do these bad boys look like, and where do we order up big?
It can be found in various forms, such as fresh or dried mushrooms, capsules, tinctures, and extracts. Here are some options for buying Lion's Mane mushroom or its extracts:
- Online health food stores like iHerb, Vitacost, and Swanson offer a variety of Lion's Mane mushroom products such as capsules, powders, and extracts. Prices may vary depending on the product's brand, quantity, and form. For example, a bottle of 60 capsules of 500mg Lion's Mane extract from Host Defense costs around US$25 on iHerb.
- Amazon is also a good source to buy Lion's Mane mushroom products, including dried and fresh mushrooms, powders, extracts, and coffee blends. Prices and quality can vary, so it's important to read reviews and check the seller's reputation. For instance, a 100g (4 oz) pack of dried organic Lion's Mane mushrooms from Terrasoul Superfoods costs around US$20 on Amazon.
Our exercise of the week is... the Scapular push-up - to strengthen the stabiliser muscles of your neck and reduce neck pain.
You've heard me often say to stay off the gym machines unless you've no choice. A key reason is that sitting on them disengages your stabiliser muscles.
These muscles work together to provide stability and support to the joints and spine during movement. They are important for maintaining good posture, balance, and coordination, and become especially important as we age because they help to prevent falls and injuries.
Stabiliser muscles are connected across your body, including the core, hips, shoulders and neck muscles, and work together to create a stable base for movement and help to transfer force from one part of your body to another.
For example, the core muscles help stabilise the spine and transfer force from the lower body to the upper body during squats and overhead presses.
⇒ As your stabiliser muscles weaken, for example, from using gym machines instead of standing on your own two feet, you accelerate the onset of pain and injury in your neck, back and lower back, and your hips and knees.
What this means for you: We use exercises that challenge balance and coordination to activate stabiliser muscles effectively, and the innocent-sounding Scapular push-up is one of those exercises.
Scapular push-ups are an effective exercise for strengthening the muscles around the shoulder blades and helping to improve overall upper body strength and stability. This all helps reduce neck pain and potential injury.
They are different from regular push-ups because they involve more movement in the shoulder blades and less bending and extending of the arms.
To perform scapular push-ups, follow these steps:
- Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
- Engage your core and glutes to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Without bending your elbows, retract your shoulder blades by pulling them down and toward your spine. In essence, you slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together and apart to move your upper body up and down slightly. It helps to visualise it to get started.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then release and allow your shoulder blades to move away from your spine.
- Repeat this movement, moving your shoulder blades closer to your spine and away from it, for the desired number of repetitions.
My Pro-tips to help you master the Scapular push-up >> The specific differences in form and tension between scapular push-ups and regular push-ups are:
- Arm movement: In scapular push-ups, the arms stay straight while the shoulder blades are retracted and protracted, whereas regular push-ups involve bending and extending the arms to lower and lift the body.
- Shoulder blade movement: Scapular push-ups focus on the movement of the shoulder blades, retracting and protracting them, whereas regular push-ups focus on pushing the body up and down.
- Tension: Scapular push-ups place more tension on the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back, whereas regular push-ups primarily work the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Good luck, be consistent and I'm sure you will feel relief in your neck and shoulders over time.
Thanks for reading!
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>> My Latest Blog Post: How Many Pistachios Should I Eat For Sleep and When?
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