Designed to prevent or slow progression of dementia

For the past five years, Niki Barr has worked at the Edward A. Myerberg Center as a personal trainer for older adults. During this time, she’s gained numerous certifications to help her adapt exercise to meet the specific needs of her clients. For example, she is trained to instruct Rock Steady Boxing designed for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Recognizing the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Barr realized the huge need to promote physical activity to improve brain health. This summer, Barr became an Alzheimer’s disease prevention and intervention specialist with the Medical Fitness Network and Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.

The program, which focuses on brain health, spurred her to introduce brain fitness classes to The Myerberg Center to help members prevent or slow the progression of dementia. It’s one of the few such programs in the region.

What did you learn this summer?

We know that exercise is so important to brain health, but there is so much more we can be doing to prevent dementia. Research has shown that dementia prevention should focus on four key areas – diet, stress management, exercise and brain stimulation. For example, clinical research has shown that practicing relaxation techniques, specifically Kirtan Kriya, for 12 minutes a day activates parts of the brain essential to cognition.

Myerberg is offering a brain health class that will include these four  key areas?

This 60-minute class, which will be held for 16 weeks, is unique in that it combines many of the components shown to preserve brain health. The class will include physical exercises and brain aerobics to improve neuroplasticity. There will also be a social component, which is a big part of brain health.

Social component?

We will encourage participants to interact and be social. If participants don’t currently volunteer, we will recommend local places to volunteer, as this is not only another  social outlet, but it gives purpose and stimulates mood.

Who is this class good for?

Not only is this class good for older adults who want to preserve their brain health, but it’s great for those at risk of developing dementia and their loved ones. For those who have been diagnosed with early-stage dementia, this class may prevent the dementia from progressing as quickly.

What else should we be doing to prevent Alzheimer’s?

Diet is also very important. The Mediterranean or DASH Diet are healthy ways to eat. Walking is also great and it is recommended you walk at least 20 minutes a day. Research shows that walking with friends and talking keeps the mind stimulated.

The brain fitness class will begin in January and registration will open in December. Go to Myerberg.org or call 410-358-6856  to learn more. The Myerberg Center is a program of CHAI, an agency of The Associated.

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