Memory loss as we age is a serious matter and there is sufficient evidence to support the connection between exercise and the slowing/reversing of age related memory loss. That being said, this is a different kind of exercise/memory loss story, and it is not unique.
When Llyssa came to us on April 13th, she rather hobbled in with a cane. The cane was not an accessory but an essential limb upon which she was dependent. That first day, I put Llyssa on a recumbent stepper. My intention was to set the resistance at 1.0, the lowest possible resistance, and start her off with simple “range of motion” work.
The minimum wattage to turn on the monitor is in the four to seven watt range. The problem? Llyssa did not have the strength to produce four watts of power; couldn’t even get the monitor to turn on. Hmmm…no problem - to the trusty stopwatch. If I can get Llyssa to move her legs back and forth for one minute, two minutes, three minutes, we will call that a win and call it a day. And so the days began, and the minutes increased. And then the monitor turned on. Eureka! Llyssa had produced four watts of power, and then five, then seven, ten, 11, 15, 20, all the way to 31 watts of power. So we increased the time to ten minutes on the recumbent stepper, then added more machines; an upper body ergometer, a rowing ergometer, a recumbent elliptical, a ski simulator.
Last week as I sat at my desk I could feel Llyssa staring at me, feel her smile beaming, feel her eyes sparkling, feel her happiness and excitement bursting throughout the room as others exercised around her. I looked up. She, arms outstretched, fists clenched in victory, proclaimed “I FORGOT MY CANE!” Members clapped and congratulated her. She had broken free from her seemingly inextricable appendage. Yesterday Llyssa leg pressed 160 pounds. I don’t think she will forget that anytime soon…
Andy Baxter is a Medical Exercise Specialist and the author of Racing Yesterday, www.racingyesterday.com