Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Does your exercise history play a role in developing Alzheimers?

When I reflect on the article I posted yesterday regarding the correlation between exercise as a teenager and  cognition in later life,  I think back to the amount of exercise I received as a youngster growing up in USA verses Lily growing up in Ireland.

Looking at different stages in my life exercise was never structured until I started sporadic exercise programs, ie. jazzercise, yoga, etc.,  in my twenties.

Growing up in the Seattle area till age 7  where the weather was temperate and the TV limited I am sure I spent most days outside riding bikes, following creeks, and playing with other kids.

Once we moved to Dayton at age 7 the cold winter weather limited exercise to sledding on snow days and indoor play for many months out of the year.  I was never involved in any sports except one summer I played softball till the ball hit me in the eye and that was the end of that! Of course, during the summer months I was outside from morning to dinner often skipping lunch, so much so, I started to become faint probably from low blood sugar and Lily insisted I come home for lunch.

My time as an early teenager was probably my most sedentary period when I was "too old to play."  Other than gym class  I did do some random jobs such as raking leaves, babysitting, and cleaning which provided some exercise, but not until I started to work at McDonalds did my activity pick up.

Other than work, in my later teens I participated in little exercise which was unlike my own children who throughout their childhood and teen years participated in organized sports and dance receiving at least 10 to 20 hours per week of exercise.

In my 30's and 40's I  usually walked my dogs everyday at a brisk pace and participated in random exercise classes.

Not until age 50 when I started to run marathons did I start regularly exercising with high intensity and continue that till this day.

Now Lily on the other hand grew up in Dublin in the city till about age 5 and then moved out to the country where she lived on a farm till about age 14.  I know she used to always say she had to walk 5 miles to and from school each day.   Didn't we all hear that from our parents?   Lily was known to exaggerate so whether the 5 miles is true or not we can only surmise.

Lily did not participate in any sports so other than walking and playing as a child that would be about it.  I know she was the baby and was spoiled so she did not have to do many chores (this tidbit directly from Mom years ago).  Hard to believe that happened in Ireland on a farm back in the 30's.

Lily moved to England to be with her sister in her late teens and worked in a hospital while there as an aide so I am sure her late teens and early twenty's were a little more active. She also spoke of going out to the dance halls in England with her girlfriends. Other than dance, walking,  and work that would be it for exercise.

Lily often said exercise was a bunch of crap and would never participate in it.  She would say something like,  "Why should I do that and make myself hurt all over?"  She admonished me often for exercising telling me I would hurt myself.

She became a widow at 32 and once the kids moved out she took care of the yard and house by herself which was her only source of exercise and not a small job I might add. In her 60's and 70's she loved to garden and would spend all day outside in good weather playing with the dirt and plants.

So if the assumption in that article is correct my children should be good as long as they don't become slugs in later life.

As for me I wished I exercised more diligently before age 50.

And Lily.... I guess she fits the premise of the article and did get Alzheimer's.  Other than normal household activities she did not participate in any form of exercise nor did she ever take daily brisks walks. However, with that said, I suspect growing up in Europe that she walked everywhere receiving more exercise than would be normal for here which does not bode well for the young people these days who do not participate in organized sports or exercise classes and spend a good deal of time with tv and video games.

As I have said before I personally feel exercise is the best defense against or at least slowing down this disease.  I feel if nothing else exercise gets the juices flowing protecting the pipes from a build up of rust and that has to be a good thing.  Right?

Please feel free to comment on  the exercise profile of your loved ones with this disease and how you feel exercise might have affected them..

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