Grandma’s Exercise Tips to Improve Memory and Mood

With the New Year, in January, every article seems to be about losing weight.  To keep the articles interesting through February, the writers use a different tactic – if you are stressed or forgetful the answer is exercise.  Here are two examples, both from Sunday newspapers, February 3, 2013:

Grandma exercisesAvoid Brain Overload to De-Stress. Q. I’m 38, a wife and a working mom with three kids.  My days are jammed.  I’m worried about taxes.  My boss wants me to take on more responsibility at work.  The cellphone is always ringing.  Sometimes I can’t remember what I am supposed to be doing!  It’s scary to think I might have Alzheimer’s disease already!

Dr. Oz and Mike Roizen answers, among others:

Put “you time” back into your schedule.  Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and meditate 10 minutes daily.  Yes, physical activity and meditation take time, but they minimize the aging that chronic stress causes. . . . When you get your overcrowded schedule under control, you’ll become younger and your brain even more vibrant.

I used to like Dr. Oz.  It must be the influence of Mike Roizen.

What!  I do not think either of you was ever a working parent!  “You Time!”  You’ve got to be kidding!

The first time I had my overcrowded schedule under control is never! The first time I had an extra 30 minutes in my day for exercise was when my youngest left for college.  I was not smart enough to think to exercise WITH my teenage daughters; it took Grandma several decades to gain such wisdom and my children are far from teenagers, thank goodness.  Meditate!  I would just fall asleep from exhaustion.

The second article goes right to what I call the February exercise topic:

Dear Pharmacist: I’m going through a lot right now.  This year, my New Years’ resolution is to exercise more, hoping to take my mind off everything.  My schedule only allows me to go to the gym twice per week.  Will this help me feel better, in terms of anxiety or mood?

Okay, Suzy Cohen, the writer of the “Dear Pharmacist” column picked the easier question—this person HAS time to go to the gym twice a week.  But even this does not seem to gain brownie points with the writer.  In part, she offers:

While you tighten those abs, you increase happy brain chemicals, thus enhancing feelings of a good mood and reducing anxiety.  . . .To get these benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week. . . .Don’t stop working out after you’ve achieved a size four!  Researchers examined what happens to memory when exercise is suddenly halted, and the results were dramatic.  After just one week, all the health and memory benefits declined in the rats that had been exercising.  After 10 weeks of inactivity, the previously active rats’ brain were almost indistinguishable from those of the sedentary rats!

It really does nothing to make my mood  better knowing that if I miss one week I am an awful person and totally wasted my time by starting to exercise at all.  Or is it that I cannot remember ever being a size four—even at 10 years old!  When does a working mother have 10 weeks of inactivity much less 10 minutes of inactivity?

Here are Grandma’s Exercise Tips to Improve Memory and Mood:

  1. Pay attention to all the exercise you do all day and compliment yourself on how much exercise you have done.   Cleaning, cooking, wiping counters, filling and emptying dishwashers, lifting grandchildren, making beds, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, putting groceries away, reaching and bending, etc. are exercise.  Of course, I have paid attention to those writers who face common sense reality:  I try to walk flights of stairs when I can, even just to get one item and, of course, compliment myself that I am taking this flight of stairs voluntarily.  If my child or grandchild forgets something upstairs or downstairs, I am the first to say, “I’ll get it.”  I do not circle parking lots for the closest parking spot anymore.  If I park far away (only in daylight), I compliment myself that I have given myself extra exercise.  I make two and three trips with groceries, balancing the bags in each hand, and do biceps—okay, I don’t.
  2. Use your grandchildren to exercise.  Yes, I mean this literally.  What six to eight month old baby does not like to be lifted up in the air repeatedly!  Do you realize you are doing arm exercises? Remember 8-10 reps, one minute break, repeat, and you will feel it.  What grandma can resist bending down to pick up a grandchild, whatever age, who has his or her arms outstretched for you to pick them up.  Just remember to bend from the knees to protect your lower back!  Put them down again.  Remember 8-10 reps, one minute break, repeat, and you will feel it. However, repeat only until they cry because they do not understand why you are putting them down again.  You will hug them because they saved you from further pain and just because hugs with a grandchild are great.  Walking the floor soothing and rocking a grandchild to sleep is major exercise.  They seem to get heavier as they are falling asleep!  I do not need a pedometer to know I have walked miles with four grandchildren as weights.

How many of us throw out our hip when we carry our grandchild on our hip!  Just remember to balance the grandchild in front of you mid body to avoid this.  For the toddler and preschooler, “Simon Says, “ is a great exercise tool.  So is “Red Light, Green Light.”  So are the pee pee dance and poopie dance.  Go back and read a former blog to get a blow by blow description of this exercise.  I will go into more detail in another post about yoga with grandchildren—good for all generations.  For a start, try downward facing dog* over a baby who has just learned to smile, or over a grandchild falling asleep or just waking up.  Stretching your vertebrae and hamstrings and improving your mood at the same time by just seeing your grandchild laugh at your upside down face staring at them!

And the best exercise of all using grandchildren!  Dancing and singing!  Fast and slow.  Different tempos.  Different beats.  Different genres.  The music they love.  The music you love.  Conga around the house and up and down stairs until you all drop laughing so hard you cannot breathe.  Create your own dances.   Let your grandchildren create silly dances you mimic. Pictures!

What is better to make us feel better and in a good mood than Zumba** with grandchildren with



*Downward facing dog:   The Yoga Journal gives step by step directions at   Or you can watch how to get into the pose:

For those of you who cannot wait for the yoga post, try a DVD that seems to have good reviews:  “Yoga for Grandparents”  $10.99

**What Grandma does not know what Zumba is!

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