Senior Moments, Brain Health, and the Fitness Solution

Okay, so the other day, I heard someone say for the umpteenth time that they had a “senior moment.”  He was a big fella whose priority seemed to be more buffets and less barbells.  I didn’t know whether to roll my eyes or round up information concerning these senior moments, but, since I’m writing this article, I’m sure you guessed which one I chose.

As a psychology professor and the Director of Fitness at Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group (HVVMG), I have a motto: “Fitness is the answer, and it doesn’t matter what the question is.”  Consequently, I have a hybrid perspective of connecting mental capacity to fitness levels.  So, I figured fitness would have a positive impact on any sort of brain strain seniors experience.  I already knew that fitness had a greater impact on memory than those “brain exercises” like Lumosity, Sudoku, and spelling the names of foreign cities backwards (try Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico buddy).  Research showed that Lumosity sponsored a study to justify their self-promoted memory enhancement programs.  Later, two independent research projects showed that vigorous exercise (aka fitness) had a far greater positive impact on memory than brain games ever did.  Being intrigued and never wanting to visit Seniormomentville myself, I did some digging and discovered a solution, called “brain health.”


The health of our brains is very fragile and highly susceptible to negative input, even to the point of physical maladies.  An example you ask?  Sure.  Did you know that when younger folk have negative views of ageing, it can be harmful [1]?  Negative stereotypes of ageing have been known to reduce memory functions as we grow older, and, get this, create a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes [2].  Crikey, what’s a young guy like me to do to avoid this trap?  Oh, I know, I need to develop a personal fitness program which will facilitate brain health and stave off the effects of ageing and negativity towards it.  I know ageing is gonna happen, but why help it along by leaving fitness out of our list of life priorities?

Hey, we are not born with all of our brain cells.  Bethcha didn’t know that.   Our bodies experience a phenomenon known as neurogenesis, where our brain’s hippocampus (not hippopotamus, which happen to be one of the dumbest animals on Earth) generates healthy new brain cells throughout our lifetimes. The hippocampus, which is the first area of attack for Alzheimer’s, remains more highly functioning with the increases of oxygen efficiency, which we smart fitness guys call VO2 max.  And, what is the only way to increase our VO2 max? Yep, you guessed it, vigorous exercise (aka fitness).  At our recent LifeFit U seminar at HVVMG, where we combine fitness with education, attendees were startled to hear that fitness can be a critical component to preventing Alzheimer’s and related psychological impairments.  We talked about how there was no reason to encounter memory loss, mind and body breakdown, or any other life-threatening situation.  We just have to prioritize fitness.  It ain’t easy, but for those who are living the dream in their “later years,” they’ll tell you it sure is worth it.

At HVVMG, our free senior fitness program is entitled “Retro-Fit.”  Each week I have the wonderful pleasure and opportunity (evil laugh) to “help” attendees achieve maximum health and wellness through fitness.  Not only is the Retro-Fit program helping seniors get out of their wheelchairs, throwing away their canes, and jumping over small cars (okay, I made that one up), with the research we have shown today, they are experiencing neurogenesis and increasing their brain health while improving their psychological and physical lives in extraordinary ways.  The only losses going on here are loss of weight, loss of wheelchairs, and loss of pants sizes, while gaining memory function, hope, self-esteem, and transformed lives.  Can I get a BAM?


In closing, we all have the chance, right now, to make a life statement.  By making fitness a priority in our lives and increasing our brain health, we will have the chance to live our lives the best ways possible while remembering those times vividly.  Our senior moments, then, will bring us smiles and joy, not disappointment or disillusion, as we now remember the greatest parts of our lives (and where we left our car keys).  BAM!

-George Mangum M.A., Heritage LifeFit Fitness Director


[1] Hess TM, Hinson JT, & Statham JA. (2004). Explicit and implicit stereotype activation effects on memory: do age and awareness moderate the impact of priming? Psychology of Aging, 19(3), 495-505.

[2] Levy BR, Zonderman AB, Slade MD, & Ferrucci L. (2009). Age stereotypes held earlier in life predict cardiovascular events later in life. Psychological Science, 20(3), 296-298.