Mental and Physical Exercise Can Boost Brain and Body

Adding Cognitive Reserve Keeps You on Your Game Even with Memory Loss

Members of Belmont Village Senior Living’s Circle of Friends™ participate in a scrapbooking activity. The Circle of Friends program is an award-winning, research-based enrichment program for residents with Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Most of us wake up and think about the day’s activities, and for many, this includes daily physical exercise to keep the body fit. But how many of us put an equal emphasis on exercising the brain?

“It’s more important than you think,” said Beverly Sanborn, LCSW, gerontologist and program developer for Belmont Village Senior Living. “Just as we build muscle strength to keep our bodies fit and youthful, we need to build new neuro-connections for our brains to keep our minds active and hold off memory loss.” Research indicates that mental fitness along with a healthy diet and a combination of aerobic and strength-training builds cognitive reserve.

Building cognitive reserve early is important because Alzheimer’s disease can start decades before any symptoms show. Also, it is estimated that as many as 10-20 percent of people age 65 and older have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), characterized by mild but measurable and noticeable changes in thinking abilities. Studies have shown that work-outs that engage mind and body in specific ways can help maintain, and in some cases, improve function, even in those who have been diagnosed with MCI.

Six years ago Belmont Village developed Circle of Friends®, a research-based enrichment program for residents with MCI. It is a 7-day-a-week program of group activities and physical exercise led by specially trained staff. “Since we launched this program, we’ve seen a tremendous difference in our residents: It opens them up and renews their confidence — they begin to engage again,” Sanborn said.

For more information about Circle of Friends, call Belmont Village Burbank at (818) 972-2405 or visit www.belmontvillage.com.

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