(N) Nutrition. (E) Exercise. (W) Wellness. Our theme for 2015, mindfulness, includes thinking about nutrition, exercise and wellness as a holistic approach to overall health. This month we look at exercise and mindfulness.

What is your idea of exercise? Some people walk. Others run. Some do yoga on a mat, and some from a chair. Tai Chi, dance, cycling, swimming, exercise class, group sports, they are all good, as long as you can do it.

Exercise that increases heart rate (safely) is good for your brain health as well as muscles. Science shows that exercise helps your brain function as well, possibly lowering the risk of dementia. But exercising at a slower pace is equally important. In middle and later ages, strength and balance are key exercise objectives. Both of these require engaging the brain
during exercise. Tai Chi and yoga, for example, are slow, thoughtful movements that promote relaxation, flexibility and balance.

Mindful exercise means more than focusing on your movements. Mindfulness means gratitude. Thank your body for moving. Appreciate the exercise you are able to do and do not curse yourself for what you can’t do. Mindful exercise is not a competitive mindset. It is open to the experience of movement. Does your left leg feel stronger than your right? Does your right arm stretch farther than the left. Try not to have loud music or TV on during part of your workout. How is this exercise experience different from what you may have done before?

As they say in diet product ads, always let your doctor know before starting a new exercise regimen. The reason is to identify risk factors and develop a workout plan that is safe. Just moving your body is important, so do what you can, carefully and mindfully.

The Centers for Disease Control offers a suggested workout for seniors

Sources: “The Midlife Workout that Really Matters” By Elena Rover, available at

Physical exercise at midlife and risk of dementia three decades later: a population-based study of Swedish twins. by Andel R1, Crowe M, Pedersen NL, Fratiglioni L, Johansson B, Gatz M. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Jan; 63(1):62-6. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18245762.