Getting fit – brain and all | Ann Oxrieder


Maybe you’ve seen the commercial on TV.  Christie Brinkley and Chuck Norris – Beauty and the Beast — team up to show off their buff bodies and persuade viewers to buy one of the machines they’re exercising on. Three other women and I have been using similar machines at the Bellevue Y, as we follow orders belted out by Chrissy Mahan, a drill sergeant disguised as a fitness trainer. I don’t remember what the machines are called, but a woman I see often at the Y asked me if I’d been on “The Rack” lately.

My classmates welcome anyone who chooses to join the sisterhood of Friday morning sufferers. They are younger than me by 15 to 20 years.  To give them their due, they also adjust their machines for a harder workout than mine, and, unlike me, barely sweat.

Ever since my mom suffered from Alzheimer’s I’ve worried about my brain. (Friends say I should have started worrying sooner.) I’ve read that strenuous exercise can provide some protection against dementia, but I never did much more than walk, because I always hurt myself lifting something improperly or doing some other stupid thing around the house.

I enrolled in this class by accident. The good news is that within three days of the first torturous session I could get out of bed unassisted.

A few months ago Chrissy suggested I try another of her classes: “Above the Barre.”

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“A little like ballet.”

My husband asked what was involved in this new class.

“Stretching, I imagine.”

I soon found out that the only thing stretched was the meaning of “a little like ballet.” Yes, sometimes we point our toes or stand in first position. We also bend, kick, twist, and raise small weights in the air while we push, pull and pulse. And that’s the warm up.

The odd thing is, that I haven’t hurt myself. I’m stronger. According to WebMD, “A lot of the problems we used to think of as being related to aging, we now know aren’t related to aging at all. They are related to disuse of the body…”

These workouts are important for improving bone density, balance and, I hope, my brain. This month my doctor said I could stop taking cholesterol medication. The benefits of rigorous exercise go beyond the unseen to better defined biceps and triceps. Now if I could only locate those abs.


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