fbpx
L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

A Plan for 2020

We postmenopausal women gain doubly from making regular exercise part of our lives. Regular exercise keeps our muscles strong and boosts our production of testosterone, which we lose at menopause. Testosterone is the hormone that builds and maintains muscle, as well as stoking the fire of romance and intimacy. Exercise also gives our adrenal glands a boost toward producing more estrogen—the site from which we get most of our estrogen in postmenopause. Talk about yet another bushel basket of benefits from sweating for forty-five minutes most every day. This is very good news!

After fifty-five we lose what I call our “protective armor of hormones.” Then, our adrenal glands and specific places in our brain must take over the job once done by our ovaries. But, it is an imperfect transition, as many of us loudly agree. Now, research reveals that exercise helps our adrenals make more estrogen which help keeps our telomeres long. This action allows our brains to fire on all fronts and our memory banks to stay as crisp as a cracker. It also bumps up the level of estrogen circulating in our bodies which gives us a greater sense of well-being, helps us feel less irritable and more balanced, and contributes to our sexual comfort and desire. Additionally, with a gaggle of other hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, regular exercise doubles the dose of perks to our brain’s other receptive centers—pleasure, happiness, and contentment. We get all of this by habitually hitting the dance floor, swinging to the Latin beat in Zumba class, or mastering our serve on the tennis court. I find this information very encouraging.

Now that we are surrounded by winter, with the shortest day of the year just behind us, let’s get up and out and back on track once the holidays are over. We can start the New Year with the knowledge that lacing up those tennies, or slipping on our dance pumps are the first steps toward revving up our bodies and minds to meet the New Year and the new decade– ready to rumble. Look out world, here we come!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

A Plan for 2020

A number of years ago, before I went back to school to study gerontology, I began noticing articles in a variety of publications suggesting that exercise might just be the key to unlock the door to vibrant health—mentally and physically– as we enter the second half of our lives. As I write this, we now know beyond all doubt that exercising every day is the key to dynamic aging. It will effectively disrupt aging and can stave off a vat full of health problems. In two past posts, Shake Your Booty and The Rhythm of the Drums, I explored the latest research citing dancing as one of the outstanding ways to lay down new tracks in our aging brain and grow new brain cells along with sleeker muscles.

If you ever participated in your high school’s annual musical production, or took modern dance or ballet because your mother forced you to, you will remember those students who never got the steps, and who had the grace of a spastic earwig. I confess to being one of those students. Therefore it was with no expectations, and little hope, that I signed up for tap class. The first semester wasn’t pretty, I couldn’t cotton on to this kind of dance; so different from the free-form rock and roll dancing I knew. I would sit in my car after class and cry, disheartened that the parade of life had passed me by and that, maybe, I was too old to get this.  Same experience for the second and third semesters, but by the beginning of the fourth, I noticed a small but encouraging change: I could remember how to execute some of the steps after a few tries, and some days both feet would behave for most of the class. Finally, I could keep up with the routine. My teacher, Vicky, a life-long dancer near my own age, who is demanding but very kind, never gave up on me. My fellow tappers were also free of judgement and full of encouragement. The continuously positive environment was the reason I stayed, unlike years before when a ballet teacher shamed me in front of the class for being such a hopeless beginner.  

Shuffle-ball-change by double-toe-tap, I improved. Some weeks it all flows, and other weeks I just give up and make up my own steps while the others tap out a perfect routine. Over time I learned to joke and laugh at my mistakes, and everyone laughed with me. I gave up trying to be perfect, and let the over-achieving aspect of L.J. take a break on the bench.

As our time together as a class has increased, everyone has lightened up, we laugh more, and have a lot of fun. Some days we follow class with lunch together. I look forward to my class each week, and miss it when summer comes. About the same time I could follow along fairly well, I noticed my mind felt clearer, a little sharper. Now, even when I am tired I think better, and my thoughts seem more organized. From my research I know the tracks I began laying in my brain two years ago have gone from resembling noodles, to ones stronger than cardboard, to pathways now as strong as wood. That’s only one step away from making permanent steel tracks. Maybe then I can get the routine down on the second or third try. At this moment, I am so grateful I didn’t give up, that I found a new form of exercise I enjoy.  

And, I expanded my world with new friends who share my passion for aging vibrantly.

 Until next time…Be Vibrant!