Tag Archives: exercise

Improving Your Memory

by on March 23, 2015

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“Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”
― AESCHYLUS

With advancing age, many adults worry not only about their health, but also about their memory. First, let us examine why we value our memory, and then look at some of the latest research in how to improve memory.

With the externalization of memory by cell phones, computers, digital photographs, books, and pencil and paper, one can wonder why we need our brains to remember anything at all. However, thousands of years ago the major way we passed along information was orally, which required focused attention and memory. Dating back 2500 years, the Iliad and the sequel, the Odyssey, were transmitted orally by the rhythm of the words. It is said that the Torah, or Five Books of Moses, was memorized by Moses, then taught to the leaders of the Hebrew people, and then passed on to the 1 million or so who left Egypt around 1500 BCE. The Torah chant or trope aided memorization, and may have even contributed to more precise interpretation. For 1000 years, not one word of Torah was recorded in the written word. The value of “knowing” the Torah in the mind was that it could be scanned quickly for reference and applied meaningfully to any life situation. Today, with the exception of some Torah and Talmudic scholars, few possess this skill. Although computers are useful memory tools, digitalized knowledge cannot be applied in situations requiring emotional awareness and response. For example, a musician who performs a piece from memory can evoke musical pathos or elation that extends beyond the printed notes.

There are scores of self-help books on improving memory. One that I recently enjoyed reading is Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by an investigative journalist, Joshua Foer. He states this about the process of improving his memory, “My experience has validated the old saw that practice makes perfect. But only if it’s the right kind of concentrated, self-conscious, deliberate practice.” The main technique he utilized was the “PAO system.” A specific person, action, or object is associated with a specific card in a deck, or a segment of poetry, or a number to be recalled. I won’t reveal the ending of the book, but the memory feat Joshua Foer was able to accomplish was quite extraordinary. Moreover, the tools he used can be learned by anyone.

There have been many medical studies to investigate memory loss and interventions to improve it. Despite early hopes that computerized brain games or taking gingko biloba could make a significant difference, follow up studies have not confirmed their long-term benefit. One novel medical study from UCLA (in the journal Aging, September 2014) showed actual Reversal of Cognitive Decline. In this study, 9 of 10 patients with early Alzheimer’s, or mild and subjective cognitive impairment improved within 3-6 months using a comprehensive program involving up to 36 interventions. The one patient who did not improve had advanced dementia. Patients who had quit their jobs because of poor memory were able to return to work. Notably absent from the regimen were prescription medicines. Although the program was personalized, here are some of the key components:

  1. Exercise 30-60 minutes, 4-6 times per week. (Exercise stimulates the growth of new neurons of the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain, and preserves existing neurons.)
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Eliminate simple carbohydrates, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and non-farmed fish.
  3. Reduce stress; meditate, practice yoga, or listen to music.
  4. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night.
  5. Fast 12 hours per night including 3 hours prior to bedtime to reduce sugar and insulin levels. (The higher one’s glucose, the greater the risk for memory loss.)
  6. Supplements such as B12, Vitamin D, fish oil, and curcumin were individualized in this study.

Although none of the participants followed the protocol entirely, the results were still impressive. Dr. Dale Bredesen, the neurologist and author of the study, advises a full clinical trial to substantiate the findings.

I instruct my patients who have concerns about their memory to incorporate heart-healthy habits: “What is good for the heart is good for the brain.” Other measures that aid our memory that I have witnessed watching my 3-year-old granddaughters and 92- year-old mother include:

  1. Learn by song or rhyme. Think of the ABC song. Singing or chanting triggers additional nerve pathways to aid memorization and recall. Whenever I attend Shabbat services with my mother, chanting of a prayer aids her ability to remember it.
  2. When I observe my granddaughters learning a new word, they repeat the word out loud. When you meet a new person, try to state the name of the person 2-3 times to reinforce it in your memory bank.
  3. New experiences add links to memory circuitry. Socialize with others, take your children or grandchildren to the zoo, or travel to maximize the opportunity for memorable moments. Stay active.

In summary, keep yourself focused, exercise your mind, and practice a healthy lifestyle to stay sharp. Your personal memories are valuable because they define you. Protect them.

Jerry Saliman, MD is a volunteer internist at Samaritan House Medical Clinic in San Mateo. He retired from Kaiser South San Francisco after working there more than 30 years. While at Kaiser SSF, Dr. Saliman was also Chief of Patient Education. He received the 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award” given by the Kaiser SSF Medical Staff.

Editing acknowledgement: Ellen Saliman

Neither the PJCC or our guest columnists provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please make your health care decisions in partnership with your health care provider

Functional Training: Taking Your Workouts To The Next Level

by on February 24, 2015

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By Chris Nash, PJCC Personal Trainer

As a fitness professional for more than 15 years, I’ve witnessed many changes in the fitness industry. It used to be that gyms were limited to traditional equipment, such as bench and leg presses, that worked just one or two muscles at a time.

But in recent years, a growing trend is functional training. This is a classification of exercise that involves training the body for activities we perform on a daily basis; movements that require all your muscles to work together as they do in real life.

Does this sound strange? Perhaps, but Steve Jobs always said “Think different” and that’s what the fitness industry is doing. Traditional weights and machines have been around for decades and continue to serve an important purpose. However, with the introduction of functional training, you can now work several muscle groups at one time. Not only do you enjoy a well-rounded workout, but this form of exercise also keeps you from plateauing.

TRX is a good example of functional training. When it was first introduced to the public ten years ago, TRX had a profound effect on the fitness industry. TRX, which was developed for Navy Seal Training, involves using a set of straps as your anchor point and leveraging your own body weight as a form of resistance. TRX has been very well received and as a result, has opened doors to even more creative methods of training, such as Battle Ropes, Kettlebells, and other fitness tools, all offered at the PJCC.

As a trainer, functional training has changed me for the better. Not a day goes by that I don’t discover a new benefit from the different tools that I use. Better yet, my clients are getting stronger, experiencing effective workouts, and seeing results faster.

If you’d like to try out TRX, Battle Ropes, Kettlebells, etc., call the PJCC’s Fitness Desk at 650.378.2703 or check out the Fitness Schedule of ongoing classes.

Half My Size: A Weight Loss Journey

by on January 28, 2015

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By Randi  Reed, PJCC Assistant Camp Director

Everyone asks me what happened. How did I do it?

As a teenager at age 16 I weighed 350 lbs. If that sounds like it would be hard to overcome, it was.

I had PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and I knew if I kept going and growing the way I was, I would have died. With help from my doctor to get the PCOS and hormones under control I Continue reading

In Search Of Sleep

by on November 4, 2014

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But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”  Robert Frost

A relative of mine, Stewart, (not his real name) was driving home from LA, and fell asleep at the wheel. Stewart was 18 years old at the time, and on winter break from college. He drove to LA in the morning, and then, after spending the day there, drove home that night. Although he knew he was drowsy, he made the decision to drive home. The last thing he remembered was listening to a 49er Monday night football game before he dozed off without warning. His new 1996 Toyota Corolla was totaled when the car crashed into a barrier on the side of the highway Continue reading

High Blood Pressure – The Hidden Killer

by on August 5, 2014

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On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sitting in his living room having his portrait painted by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, who later became most renowned for “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR. Also present was Lucy Mercer, Eleanor’s social secretary, but most notorious because of her affair with the president. His dog, Fala, and two cousins were in the room as well according to biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin. At 1:00 pm, FDR complained of “traffic pain at the back of my head,” and collapsed, unconscious. His cardiologist quickly arrived and recognized the signs of a cerebral hemorrhage, a type of stroke. One could argue that one of FDR’s visitors that day triggered his stroke, but it is much more likely that years of untreated high blood pressure led to FDR’s demise at the age of 63.

High blood pressure or hypertension still remains a hidden killer at large. It is estimated that high blood pressure kills approximately 1000 Americans each day due to its effects on Continue reading

Fitness Tip: Bosu Squats

by on April 7, 2014

Utilizing a BOSU helps to engage a number of muscles that might get overlooked in a normal workout. Standing on the BOSU requires balance which works your core. Add in the squats to work your upper legs while giving your core a good workout.

This fitness tip is presented by PJCC Personal Trainer Cynthia Newman.

Video by Teddi Kalb

Rule No. 1 – Warm Up

by on March 3, 2014

We all should know the importance of warming up before a workout. Your body needs to prepare your muscles and joints to withstand the added pressure and to avoid injury. Get your body ready for your workout with this multiple joint warm-up.

This fitness tip from PJCC Personal Trainer, Herman Chan.

Video by Teddi Kalb

The Secret To Being Happy

by on February 27, 2014

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It’s not surprising that many people these days are stressed or, dare I say, unhappy.

Take a newspaper, for example.  You’ll find negative, and downright depressing, headlines regarding the state of our government, the environment, even the economy.  It’s license enough to put anyone in a funk.

So what’s the secret to being happy?

The answer is far simpler than you would think.  According to NYU professors, Lerner and Schlechter, the secret to happiness is not one singular secret at all, but rather a series of proactive choices you make to fill your life with joy and meaning. Now for many of us, knowing how to identify those decisions can be difficult.  But the field of positive psychology has shown that the following positive interventions can help give you that “happy” head start:

Conscious Acts of Kindness: Hold the door open for someone, stick a dime in a meter about to expire, volunteer to wash the dishes for your spouse or parent.  These acts may seem small, but they reap big benefits.  According to Lyubomirski, Sheldon, & Schkade’s research in 2005, five acts of kindness during one day can contribute to people feeling much happier – with those feelings lasting for several subsequent days.

Gratitude Visit: Take stock of what you have in your life worth being thankful for.  This can be done in a multitude of ways: Keep a daily gratitude journal in which you write down three things you are grateful for or write a gratitude letter to someone you care about.  Researchers found that actively exercising gratitude significantly raised levels of happiness and lowered levels of depression (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).

Exercise: This is a no brainer.  Aside from the physical benefits, exercise also releases neurotransmitters in the brain that enhance mood and act as a natural antidepressant, making exercise the ultimate stress reliever!

Meditation & Mindfulness: Part of the reason why a lot of people are so stressed these days is the busy, hectic schedules we keep.  We’re multi-taskers, which after awhile can tax our mental well-being.  Meditation is a phenomenal way to quiet the “noise” in our minds, to better connect with our bodies and to become more aware of our present.  It also has been shown to improve one’s stress reactivity and recovery, attention, concentration and positive affect.  If you are unsure of how to best practice meditation and mindfulness or want to meditate with a group, the PJCC offers mindfulness meditations led by our own Rabbi Lavey Derby, Thursdays from 1:30-2:30 pm.

Now, go on.  Try something!  You can’t guarantee happiness will happen organically. So start small and see if you find yourself with a smile on your face.

 

Are You Ready For Ski Season?

by on January 27, 2014

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Prepare to hit the slopes (once we get some more snow) by working those thighs and glutes. One way people generally get injured when skiing or snowboarding is by going to the mountains after a long summer and autumn with likely no pre-conditioning. Avoid muscle fatigue and potential accidents by preparing yourself and your body.  Monique Molino, PJCC Pilates Coordinator, shows us one fitness tip to help you prepare.