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How to Build Muscle & Look Younger Without a Workout

Everybody knows exercise is good for you. But how many seniors realize they can also improve their health and fitness by exercising their mental muscles as well as their physical ones? Your senior clients can imagine themselves exercising, and build physical muscle!

reverse mortgage newsWe can also laugh our way to health, as journalist Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of An Illness, described in his breakthrough memoir of recovery from a life-threatening condition. Research shows laughter decreases stress hormones, builds “good” cholesterol, and lowers a senior’s risk of heart disease by reducing arterial inflammation. So perhaps both LOs and reverse mortgage clients and prospects ought to peruse those humorous email forwards that land in your Inbox before deleting them. New research on depression also demonstrates that social isolation leads to inflammation, so laughing with others (or imagining exercising with friends) is even better for your immune system than performing a solo mental workout.

One fantastic bonus: all this imagery boosts mental muscles as well as physical ones. A new study focused on preventing cognitive decline in older adults followed one hundred people aged 55 to 86 as they pursued a specific fitness regime, measuring the effects on their brains through tests and MRI scans. Six months in, the seniors showed not only improved cognitive function but growth in key brain centers as well.

Gym and Jeans

Of course, this study assumes actual rather than virtual exercise. But mental weight training, supplemented by visits to the local fitness club, is going to pay big dividends — a nice supplement to the opportunities a HECM can open up for healthy elders to enjoy their Third Age.

Flexing their mental and physical muscles will also enable seniors to look as good in their jeans as svelte 62-year-old Christie Brinkley. An amusing survey suggests we should ditch our denim by age 53. Fortunately for the apparel industry, 78 million Boomers — the youngest of whom is now at that threshold — seem unlikely to be “retiring” their jeans any time soon. This was a British study, however. England may hold its seniors to a more exacting fashion standard.

Mental Fitness Looks Fabulous

Regardless of how seniors are attired once retired, staying inspired will keep them refired. Yes, the rhyme is intentional: longevity is often the soul of wit. Brain workouts will keep seniors’ physical, mental, and emotional selves humming, and they’re surprisingly easy to do, as this list of ten simple brain exercises illustrates.

My dad, whom I’ve referenced often as an example of unwitting positive aging techniques, learned to use a computer at 89 after my Mom’s passing, and later taught himself to cook eggs for breakfast (he’s of the generation of men who couldn’t even boil water). Number four on the list of brain exercises is, “Take a cooking class.” He simply “enrolled” in the kitchen. When I asked how he learned to make an omelet, he responded, “Trial and error.”

So whether your senior clients are more comfortable in suits and dresses or jeans and flannel shirts, encourage them to build their mental muscles. A happy hippocampus is the way to stay healthy, sharp, and in good humor — as long as those cartoon forwards aren’t in questionable taste.


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  1. Interacting with others is paramount to a healthy lifestyle. I am in an organization where a husband and wife team have volunteered to serve on our Board of Directors; she is 79 – he is 82. They bring a wealth of experience from their former workplaces and immediately initiated plans to help us promote and grow our ballroom dance club. Yes, they are dancers. I think this is a great example of what your blog is telling all of us. It incorporates both the physical and mental activities we all need.

    Good article, Amara.

    • Thanks as always for your insightful wisdom, Dick! And be sure to watch this space next month, when we’ll feature a topic near and dear to your heart 🙂

      Blessings and happy holidays!

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