Brain Fitness Coming To Senior Exercise Classes
The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) has announced a new brain fitness training program designed for exercise professionals. Brain Fitness for Older Adults teaches senior fitness instructors and personal trainers how to incorporate effective cognitive fitness into physical activity programs, offering seniors the opportunity to boost both physical and mental fitness simultaneously.
Brain Fitness for Older Adults is a distance-learning program that requires 25 hours of home study to complete. Educational topics include brain anatomy and physiology, cognitive function in aging, links between physical exercise and memory, and brain health activities for use in senior exercise programs.
The plan for combining brain fitness with physical activity is the product of SFA's ongoing Brain Fitness Project, which develops practical applications of new knowledge in neuroscience for use in the senior fitness setting. Older-adult fitness trainers work on a regular schedule with the population most at risk for cognitive decline, which is important since brain exercise, like physical exercise, must be performed regularly to produce and maintain results. The program is designed to take advantage of recent findings showing cognitive improvements from regular exercise among older adult participants.
Popular cultural trends currently reflect a widespread interest in brain health. Commercial products are being developed to inform laypersons and help them preserve their mental acuity. The technology industry has entered the brain health arena as well. According to the Associated Press, home-computer brain fitness software jumped from $100 million in revenues in 2005 to $225 million in 2007. By 2015, it is expected to reach $2 billion.
SFA president Janie Clark said, "Because brain health affects overall health, cognitive fitness activity is essential to comprehensive senior fitness programming. Our system does not involve installing brain fitness computers in health clubs. Instead, it integrates mental exercise into the participants' physical activity sessions. One example is the use of mental imagery during cool-down exercises to sharpen seniors' focus and attention skills."
Since 1992, SFA has set the standard in senior-specific fitness education, recently earning the 2009 National Council on Aging Health Promotion Institute's Best Practice Award for their educational programs. Expert peer review comments on Brain Fitness for Older Adults include "scientifically supported," "outstanding," "the most comprehensive study I've seen," and "I would recommend this to anyone who works with the senior population." The study package provides two textbooks, an educational DVD, a manual of brain fitness activity plans, and a CD-ROM of client handouts for each activity. The enrollment cost is $249.