A new program at Camosun College is using exercise to address not just the physical health of seniors, but their mental health as well.
The college’s Lansdowne campus is starting Brain Lifting, a class for seniors that uses resistance training to improve neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. The program is based on a recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, which found a connection between resistance training and improvements in cognitive function and mobility.
“It was looking at elderly women, 65 to 75, and comparing their white matter lesions, which is connected to various things like cognitive dysfunction and Type 2 diabetes,” said Meghan Lambeth, recreation and fitness co-ordinator at Camosun. “You see it in all seniors, but people that have more are more likely to have other issues going on.
“They found that seniors who did resistance training twice a week actually saw a difference in their white matter lesions. They either stopped growing or slightly diminished.”
Cognitive dysfunction can lead to bad falls for seniors, and according to Lambeth, 30 per cent of the elderly experience one in any given year. The program aims to improve seniors’ physical and mental health to prevent falls and other accidents.
Rahman Saleem, who graduated from Camosun’s centre for sport and exercise education program, is slated to teach the class. He has been working with Lambeth to develop the program and tailor it for seniors.
“The program will gently train and condition seniors to build strength and gain range of motion and flexibility,” said Saleem, noting the training starts by using seniors’ own body weight and progresses to using medicine balls, resistance bands and weights.
“It’s not like a boot camp,” he said with a laugh, adding the class has many social benefits for seniors. “They want to work out, but they also want that social atmosphere. They don’t want a drill sergeant.”
The program also incorporates yoga-style exercises, which use body resistance, at the end of each workout as part of the cool-down period. However, the exercises aren’t set in stone and the program can be altered for seniors based on what exercises they like and their physical abilities.
“They can pick and choose what they like,” said Saleem. “Every exercise pretty much can be modified for each individual.”
Camosun is looking to start the program right away if there is enough interest. They require a minimum of four seniors to run the class, and they’re hopeful that the physical, mental and social benefits of the program will help many seniors improve their health and well-being.
“The fact that we can get them involved with other seniors just increases their quality of life,” said Lambeth.
The class is scheduled to run Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 to 9:50 a.m. Anyone interested in joining the program or learning more about the exercises can call the college’s fitness and recreation centre at 250-370-3602 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.