Summer 2021 Newsletter
By Laura Stilwell, MEd
UAMS Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative (AGEC)
The mission of Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative (AGEC) is to provide high quality programs that support healthy aging in Arkansas. Two physical fitness programs used by AGEC are Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention and Ageless Grace (AG). AG is an exercise program that, through muscle group targeting, meets the criteria of a fitness and fall prevention program for older adults. (Grabinar, et al., 2014) The activities in AG are fun, intentional, and accessible to persons of any age and physical ability. (Medved, 2013) For those reasons, AGEC chose AG as one of the fitness programs offered for community outreach. The focus of this article is to learn about AG, its development and its practice.
The Ageless Grace program was developed by Denise Medved with the intention of meeting the criteria for physical fitness as well as brain fitness. Medved, a marketing executive and fitness instructor for over 30 years, and her development team compiled the series of exercises in the AG program based on studies in neuroplasticity. (Medved, 2013) Neuroplasticity is defined as the capacity of neurons and neural networks in the brain to change their connections and behavior in response to new information. (Rugnetta, 2020) Each of the twenty-one exercises, or tools, emphasizes different anti-aging techniques that reinforce the theory of neuroplasticity. The exercises use a combination of flexibility, joint mobility, right-left brain coordination, cognitive function, and many other techniques to reinforce fall prevention, confidence and playfulness. (Medved, 2013) Medved asserts that with just ten minutes of practice every day using two or three of the “tools”, one will be aware of the positive differences in quality of life within 21 days. (Medved, 2013)
Following the lesson plan of AG, each exercise session lasts 10 minutes and uses a minimum of three tools. The exercises are performed seated in a chair, using upbeat music and can be practiced in a group setting or alone. Each of the tools targets specific muscle groups to use during the session. The combination of muscle groups has a specific cognitive function as well as physical function during the exercise session. (Medved, 2013) The curriculum of Ageless Grace meets the recommendations of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd
Edition in an intentional and accessible manner. (PAGA, 2018)
Activity for the older adult is crucial for maintaining quality of life. The recently updated Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd Edition includes brain health benefits as part of the updated evidenced based benefits of physical activity. The Guidelines state that physical activity can lead to improvement in cognitive function and sleep, as well as reductions in anxiety and depression risks. The combination of physical fitness with emotional fitness and brain health combine to contribute to an improved quality of life and healthy aging. (PAGA, 2018) According to the Guidelines, adults age sixty-five and older benefit from regular physical activity, even if that activity is below the key guidelines for exercise prescription. (PAGA, 2018)
The success of an exercise program for the body and the brain can only be realized if participation occurs. (Cooper, 2020) Many adults are resistant to exercise due to cost, time constraints, and fear of injury. (PAGA, 2018) AG addresses these concerns by being cost effective, time effective, and practiced in the safety of a seated position. It is our job as practitioners and educators to encourage participants to commit to consistent exercise habits that incorporate a balance of participant preferences with evidence based practices. (Cooper, 2020) As educators for the older adult population, AGEC believes AG meets the criteria for physical fitness and cognitive health for older adults as outlined in the Physical Fitness Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition.
Cooper, S. (2020) Promoting Physical Activity for Mental Well-Being, American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, 24(3), 12-14.
Grabiner, M.D., Crenshaw, J. R., Hurt, C. P., Rosenblatt, N. J., & Troy, K. L. (2014). Exercise-based fall prevention: can you be a bit more specific? Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 42(4), 161–168.
Medved, D. (2013). Introduction to Ageless Grace, The Ageless Grace Brain Health Program Playbook, 5-7. Essay, Purple Iris Press, LLC.
Rugnetta, M. (2020, September 3). Neuroplasticity. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/neuroplasticity
US Department of Health and Human Services. (2018) Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. SNAP Education Connection. 27-46, 66-87.