Tribune Print Share Text

Living Well

Created date

June 14th, 2012
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on

Every little bit (of exercise) helps

It seems that just about every day we hear about the virtues of exercise. Countless studies have shown the benefit of exerciseat all ages on just about every part of our body including our brain. With such compelling evidence, why is it that so few of us exercise regularly? We all have our favorite excuses like I m just too busy or I might get hurt, but are there other ways that we can reproduce some of the positive effects of exercise without the drudgery of going to the gym and working out?

Benefits of household activities

The good news is that household activities such as cooking, cleaning, and gardening may have benefits similar to exercise with regard to brain function. Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago monitored activity levels among older adults using a device that measured even very small movements. They found that only 8% of the most active study participants developed signs of Alzheimer s while the least active participants developed Alzheimer s symptoms 18% of the time. This is a remarkable reduction of over 50% among the group that was more active. While this study does not prove that the activities in fact prevented Alzheimer s disease in some individuals, it certainly demonstrates that being more active is associated with better cognitive function down the road. While we don t know exactly how the brain benefits from activity and exercise, we believe it may be related to improved circulation and blood vessel benefits. One thing is clear the evidence continues to mount that being active is healthful, and there are lots of options to achieve that goal. Perhaps the most important part of activity and exercise is finding something that you enjoy and will do consistently. For me, it s walking my German shepherd every evening; for you it might be cooking a meal for family and friends or fixing up or redecorating a room. Whatever you choose, have fun and stay with it. In good health, Dr. Narrett