Walking one & 1/4 miles daily, or 9 miles a week, can protect the grey matter of your brain. This was the finding of a study at the University of Pittsburg which looked at older adults over a 13 year time span. Those who walked 9 miles a week had half the risk of cognitive impairment of more sedentary subjects. You know the other benefits of walking – weight control, reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, reduced risk of falls and fractures, and mood improvement . There are also studies showing a lower risk for cancers of the breast, uterus, colon and prostate with physical activity. Here are some strategies to make regular walking a part of your life.
*get a pedometer – I suggest the Digiwalker SW-200, available from Amazon for $22.50 or from Step into Health. Get it with a strap that secures it to your pants. This simplest pedometer only measures steps – for most people a walk of 3200 steps would be one & 1/4 miles. Some people wear a pedometer all day long, and work up to 10,000 steps a day, which is the amount popularized in Japan by research showing better health at that level of activity. If you get a digiwalker, a booklet on the 10,000 step philosophy will come along with it. It’s a great motivator. You’ll be surprised at the number of steps you take in the house and yard, and you may find you want to take more trips to the compost pile.
*find a walking partner – a person or a dog who will motivate you to keep going. If you like to talk and socialize, choose a compatible person – if you want to tune into your own rhythms, try a dog. It could be your neighbor’s dog.
*dance at home to your favorite upbeat music on rainy days. You can get endless amounts on Pandora radio (on your computer or smart phone). I favor Cajun and Zydeco to keep me moving. Don’t wait for a dance partner – go free form. For ballroom dancing, Cenize Rodriguez and Don Jolley run great classes at the Stinson Beach Community Center, and Carol Friedman teaches at the Dance Palace. You can go to these classes with or without a partner. They are fun! If you don’t live in West Marin, find a class through the yellow pages or a community college.
*For the arms and spirit – try conductorcise. Maestro David Dworkin leads classes of older people , standing or seated, through the exercise of conducting classical music. Watch him at www.conductorcise.com and put on your favorite symphony. Using the upper body this way is invigorating, and moving to the music is thrilling.
Eat for Your Brain A French study showed that older people who took good care of their brains had a lower risk of developing dementia. Taking care of the brain meant avoiding diabetes and depression, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant values. Prunes, which lead the list have the greatest ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity): prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, kale, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, Brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, oranges, red bell peppers. Many other vegetables and fruits not on this list are also valuable sources of antioxidants and other nutrients. We are so lucky to have great organic produce at the Bolinas People’s store and our local farm stands.
Update on citrus peel After my column last week on the benefits of hesperidin in citrus fruit and peel, a friend told me that her daughter had become violently nauseated after putting a whole orange in a blender drink, and had to go to the ER with intractable vomiting. This will not happen to you when you make or eat marmalade, but avoid too much peel in blender drinks.
Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH Back issues on this blog