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Melding mind and muscle
Alison Weinlaeder: Founder, Cardiomelon
BY PETER BOWES | LOS ANGELES | FEBRUARY 4, 2021 | 1042 PT
When the pandemic struck, instead of hunkering down, with her life on hold, Alison Weinlaeder moved into top gear with her brain-child; a new online business melding physical and mental workouts. The speech-language pathologist, from Saint Paul, Minnesota, wanted to help people improve their cognitive abilities, at the same time as nurturing their cardiovascular fitness. Cardiomelon is a fitness program that puts the essential components of daily health at its core. In this LLAMA podcast interview with Peter Bowes, Alison explains the science behind her novel approach to fitness. She also shares the challenges and rewards she enjoys through a startup focussed on helping people live longer and better.
Connect with Alison Weinlaeder: Cardiomelon | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn
Recorded: January 22, 2021 | Read a transcript
Topics covered in this interview include:
- Why we should work on keeping the brain healthy and strong as well as the body
- Working, as a speech language pathologist, with people who’ve experienced tragic and traumatic events
- Pushing the brain outside its comfort zone
- The challenged posed by virtual therapy for patients with severe brain injuries
- Launching Cardiomelon in the midst of a pandemic
- Isn’t it just normal to forget things as we get older?
- Empowering people through brain-focussed exercise
- How gardening and walking can help boost brain performance.
- Building a brain workout programme based on the concepts of rehabilitation – the principles of neuroplasticity
- Why you’ve got to use it to improve it
- Why just doing mental workouts, without always succeeding in a challenge, will improve brain health
- Never too late or early to start.
- Partnering with Hilarity for Charity with a mission to educate people in their 20s about poor health habits that could lead to Alzheimer’s
- The evidence to support combining cognitive and physical exercise
- Learning how to think smarter, through visualization and habits
- Being empowered to control brain health
- The lifestyle habits that will determine how our lives will be like, decades in the future.
- Future science-based research into the outcomes from Cardiomelon
The Live Long and Master Aging podcast shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.
“Physical activity is probably the most strongly evidenced factor in keeping your brain strong as you age.”Alison Weinlaeder
- This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new product that helps fill in the financial gaps that are often created once you’ve mastered aging and achieved an exceptionally long life. Small monthly payments to AgeUp stack over time to create a secure income stream for your 90s and beyond. Contributions to AgeUp are shielded from market swings, and once payouts begin at age 91 or above, they’re guaranteed to last for life. AgeUp is backed by MassMutual and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency. You can find out more at Age-Up.com
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:00:00] This starts younger than you think, because even when I launched this program I would tell someone who’s in their 40s or 50s and they would say, ‘oh my mom really neeeds this,’ I would say ‘We need this,’ you know, 40s, that’s our time and we need this now.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:21] Hello again, a very warm welcome to LLAMA, the Live Long and Master aging podcast. My name is Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:32] This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new financial product that provides guaranteed supplemental income for people who worry about the financial impact of longevity. To find out more, visit Age-Upcom. That’s Age-Up.com.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:48] Now, if you’re anything like me, exercising, especially in a gym, especially in a home gym, can be a little boring, repetitive, monotonous, great for the body, of course, to work out, but sometimes a little mind numbing, a time to daydream or just to let the mind wander, which under some circumstances is no bad thing. But training the mind and the body together is another option and a challenge that my guest today has embraced with some really interesting results. Alison Weinlaeder is a speech language pathologist with special experience treating disorders of language, memory and attention. She is the creator of a home fitness program called Cardiomelon. It combines thinking exercises with cardiovascular workouts. Alison, welcome to the Live Long and Master aging podcast.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:01:35] Thank you very much for having me.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:37] It’s good to talk to you. How did Cardiomelon come about?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:01:40] So as a speech language pathologist, I work with many adults who are experiencing normal age related changes to the brain. And most of my patients have had a stroke or a brain injury, and that’s what brings them into my office. But occasionally I would have someone referred by their neurologist who simply was just feeling like they weren’t comfortable with the changes they were experiencing that were actually a normal part of aging. So maybe their memory was starting to change a little bit. They felt like they couldn’t focus. Their attention was not as strong. And they would come to me and say, you know, what kind of app should I use or what website should I sign up for to protect my brain? And I would find that I kept asking them, well, you know, are you exercising as well? And people were really looking for kind of a quick computer-based solution. And I found myself saying again and again, if you’re just sitting and clicking on a mouse, you’re really missing out on a very important component of keeping your mind strong and your body strong as you age. And so I kept thinking about this. If only we could get people inspired to move their body knowing that that would benefit their brain and helping people make that connection. And personally, I get kind of bored when I work out, too. So I thought I would have fun if somebody was distracting me with some brain challenges while I was working out. And I just kept playing with that idea and playing with it. And finally I said, I’m going to try to create something that tries to combine these two really vital concepts for keeping our brains healthy and strong as we age.
Peter Bowes: [00:03:12] Yeah, I think it’s really interesting, let’s delve into that a little deeper, but first, maybe just tell us a little bit about your own background, your own experience and training.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:03:20] Absolutely. So I’m a speech language pathologist, I focus in the treatment of adult neurocognitive disorders, so I work at a hospitaL here in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I live. And my specialty area is working with people who have had really tragic and traumatic events in their lives, including strokes, brain injuries. I also work with quite a few patients who have dementia and Parkinson’s disease. So every day is an adventure in trying to support people, in getting back to the life that they’ve lost when they had their injury. It’s very meaningful work. I really love doing it and it taps into a creative part of my brain that I enjoy using where I get to come up with fun ideas to challenge other people’s brains and help inspire them to make thinking a part of their daily routine beyond just, you know, running through your day to day tasks. I’m always encouraging my patients. You know, what can you do that’s going to push your brain outside of its comfort zone so that it can get stronger and repair those damaged cells that were injured?
Peter Bowes: [00:04:23] And I imagine it must be quite challenging work, especially challenging work at the moment with covid.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:04:28] It’s very challenging, unfortunately, a lot of people are struggling to come in for care. You know, it’s it’s not always safe to come into our outpatient clinic because we’re located in a hospital. People don’t feel comfortable doing that. So we are trying to meet people’s needs by doing virtual therapy, which presents a lot of challenges when someone has pretty severe language or cognitive issues. I’m also finding that people who are coming in are very, very isolated. So previously, you know, when I was working with someone before the pandemic, I’d say, you know, get out there. You’ve got to be socializing. We know that socializing is so vital to keeping our language centers strong in our brain. It helps our memory, it helps our attention, our executive function skills. But now people can’t go out. And so I’m working with people who, once they leave my office and go home, are just sitting at home doing nothing. And their medical appointments are really their only interaction outside of their home, maybe a few Zoom calls here and there or Facetime with friends and family. But it’s very, very isolating. And that that really worries me because we know that isolation can lead to changes in cognition.
Peter Bowes: [00:05:34] And, of course, that very isolation just highlights the importance of what you’re doing, of trying to encourage and educate people about working out at home, but not only working out the physical body, but the mind and brain as well.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:05:46] Absolutely, and it’s interesting because I came up with this idea about six months before the pandemic and started working on it then and then as the news became, you know, more clear that this was going to be changing our lives dramatically, I wasn’t really ready to put the product out into the world. But then I thought if there was ever a time to give people something interesting and kind of exciting and different that might take their minds off of all this isolation and the fear, then this is the time to launch Cardiomelon.
Peter Bowes: [00:06:15] Now, you mentioned earlier you used that phrase, I think something like the aging process, the natural process of of getting older, which of course affects everyone and I think sometimes can be used as an excuse for lapses of memory or difficulty in doing something now that you might have been able to do 20 years ago without even thinking about it. So I’m wondering how you manage to educate people about what is is normal and what is a deficiency that perhaps could improve if only they put a bit of attention to it and perhaps adopted the kind of regime that you’re talking about.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:06:51] Absolutely. I’m so glad you asked that question, because people will say things to me like, oh, you know, I’ve been forgetting things for a while, but that’s just normal. And they are very dismissive. And it is true. There are there are changes to the brain that are well studied and well established. I mean, we know even as young as age 40, the brain starts to lose volume. And for some people, that’s inspiring where they say, oh, my goodness, then I better get moving and there’s not a minute to waste. And then there are people who say, well, you know, this is just the natural course and they’re a little less receptive to education that you can prevent that. And so part of my mission really is telling people this starts younger than you think, because even when I launched this program, I would tell someone who is in their 40s or 50s and they’d say, oh, my mom really needs this. And I would say we need this. You know, 40 is that’s our time. We need this now. And so it’s really important to educate people without scaring them and make people feel empowered. It’s it’s not we know that doing, you know, a moderate amount of activity, even light to moderate exercise, can improve the brain starting in your 40s and going through the lifespan. So when we know that areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus, which is responsible for our working memory, that’s one area that really does start to lose volume. But there’s study after study that shows even gardening going for a walk regularly, light exercise consistently can plump that region up and keep it kind of almost like a neuroprotective aspect of exercise. It keeps the brain strong. It helps repair nerve neurological cells that get damaged with age and are at increased risk of damage and decline as we age.
Peter Bowes: [00:08:43] So let’s talk about the detail of Cardiomelon and how it works, and once you’re using it, what do you experience?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:08:49] One of the founding ideas behind Cardiomelon comes from my work in rehabilitation, I pull some of the ideas and concepts for this type of brain exercise from something known as the principles of neuroplasticity. What those refer to in rehabilitation are these concepts of what will repair someone’s brain after they’ve had an injury. So, for example, with a stroke or a TBI, there may be parts of the brain that are permanently damaged. However, we know that the brain has this regenerative ability and this plasticity that allows it to repair networks that have been severely damaged or create new networks around areas of damage. And the most salient principles from that that are found in Cardiomelon are you’ve got to use it to improve it. And if you don’t use it, you can lose it. So what I mean by that is if you want memory to be better, you’ve got to work memory. If you want attention to be strong, you’ve got to work attention. If you want your word finding to be quick and you want to, you know, be able to have a conversation and think of a word right. When you want to say it and then say it, you’ve got to practice language in ways that will keep that part of the brain strong. And if you want to make it stronger, you’ve got to do exercises that will improve that area. So a typical Cardiomelon workout will incorporate some of the exercises that most of us who’ve done any amount of exercise are familiar with. So they aren’t going to be very bizarre or strange or unusual exercises. We’re talking lunges, squats, planks, push ups, jumping jacks, but they’ve all been created by exercise specialists who have experience working with adults over 50. So I was very mindful about hiring personal trainers to create workouts who could adapt every move for someone who might have a hip injury, a shoulder injury. And they’re very, very clear in their instructions about what you can do to protect certain parts of your body. If you have an injury or you’re prone to injury. So as you engage in the exercise, you get kind of a demonstration for about 15 seconds and then you move into the exercise for another 45 seconds. And during that time, you will also hear some additional prompts that say like, OK, now that you’re, you know, in the middle of your lunges, can you spell your name in reverse? Or here comes a simple addition math problem that you can try out as you’re working through this exercise. So in that way, you’re able to get your body moving and at the same time, you’re given kind of a light thinking task to keep your mind active while you’re exercising.
Peter Bowes: [00:11:25] I think that’s really fascinating and it reminds me of actually what I do when I swim and swimming is probably my exercise of choice, which can be if you swim for a long time, usually about 75 minutes, for me, it can be quite monotonous, back and forth, back and forth. So what I tried to do on laps on the return lap is have a quick look at the clock as I’m turning around and do some mental arithmetic in terms of what my time is for the previous lap, and then try to figure out what the time to the precise second is going to be on the next time I turn around to do another lap and you go on and on. What I find is that the swim go so much faster while you’re doing that because you’re distracting yourself from the physicality and as you say, you’re exercising your brain.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:12:06] Absolutely, I think that’s fantastic that you do that and, you know, you’re killing two birds with one stone, get your brain working and keep your body moving. And as you know, it seems like we both might share that sometimes monotonous exercise can be quite boring. So whatever helps the time pass, you know, it’s good for your body. You know, you need the exercise. And if you can distract yourself to kind of make that time, go work a little bit faster, then that’s a great thing.
Peter Bowes: [00:12:30] And what sort of reaction? This is still relatively new for you. What sort of reaction have you had to these workout’s?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:12:36] It is very new, yeah, we just launched this past year, so I’m getting very positive reaction. It’s very exciting. People will tell me that, you know, they’ve tried a lot of different home workouts and for example, a lot of people’s, you know, gyms moved online when the pandemic happened. And they said, but I still come back to these cardio Melin workouts because they’re fun and they’re different. And I feel very encouraged when people tell me it’s fun because I think brain games are fun and I’m glad that other people do, too. And so when they say, like, I enjoy doing the workouts, sometimes they’ll say they feel a little bit nervous because they’re worried they won’t do well. The exercises and I’ve even had people email me and say, oh, I was so scared I wouldn’t remember the three words you told me to remember at the beginning of the workout and then asked me at the end of the workout and I wrote back and I said, you know, just trying to remember is going to exercise your brain. So I’m very encouraging. In every video, I kind of write a little statement that says I’m just doing these exercises, trying to do them, putting your brain in a place where it feels a little uncomfortable and it feels like it’s working. That is what will change your brain over time and make it stronger. So the reaction has been very positive. And I also, I should mention my age range. I wasn’t really sure who would want to do this program. I had kind of a rough idea, but I’ve got members in their mid 40s and I’ve got members in their mid 80s and the whole range in between. So it’s been encouraging to learn that people who have a wide range of fitness level and just a wide range of familiarity with online fitness have joined this program and they find it engaging and beneficial.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:11] And presumably, as far as our long term prospects of living to a great age are concerned, the younger the better to start something like this.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:14:19] I think so. I hope other people think so too but it’s never too late to start too. I don’t want anyone to be intimidated if they say, you know, I’m I’ve never exercised with a fitness program before and I’m in my mid 70s. Am I a good fit? And I say,yeah we’ve got a huge range of workouts workouts. Some are seated some are standing. So there are places enter into this program. And there are places where if you regularly, regularly exercise, you could find a good fit as well.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:46] It’s interesting, we did an episode recently, we talked about this very subject that it is never too late, never too late to adopt perhaps a different eating regime if it’s better for you or a different exercise regime or indeed to start a workout regime from point blank, that if it’s something you’ve never done throughout your life, it is never too late. Equally important, though, and perhaps and this kind of alludes to my previous question, it’s never too early either. And I think that is sometimes the challenge for people like you in this longevity space. Exercise space is to encourage younger people to adopt workouts like this and to acknowledge that they to one day hopefully will be 70, 80 or 90 years old. And what you do, even as young as 20 or 30, has a very significant effect on that aging process. And I imagine as especially as it as applies to the mind and the brain.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:15:39] Absolutely, and, you know, Cardiomelon has been very fortunate to partner with a non-profit called Hilarity for Charity, and one of their missions is to educate people in their 20s. So they’re starting with college age students and educating them about the risk of Alzheimer’s that can develop in your 20s. So, you know, the behaviors like excessive drinking, poor sleep habits, not exercising, poor diet, you know, those will catch up at the end. And one of my favorite quotes from a neurologist here in the city that I recently saw was, if you don’t make time for your health now, you will be forced to make time for your illness later. So you’re absolutely right. It can’t start too soon. And I have to you know, it’s interesting because I think, you know, when you start a business or when you’ve got one of these projects that you love doing, you end up sacrificing some of the things that you are trying to promote in other people. So I constantly reminding myself, you know, I want to work on Cardiomelon, but I need to sleep because if I don’t sleep now, I’m going to pay for it later. And I may feel very, very busy in my work day. But if I don’t go, you know, do a couple of flights of stairs or get outside and go for a walk for 10 minutes in my day, I will pay for that later. So I’m trying to live the the goals and the aims of my program. But I recognize, too, that in a busy world, it’s very, very challenging.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:03] And it is indeed as as you describe, it’s a challenge for the entrepreneur, isn’t it, to set up something like this? You have a full time job quite separate from this, although obviously related and subject matter, but just the very process of setting up, especially during a pandemic, during these difficult times, setting up a new entity is time consuming and challenging.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:17:24] It has been very time consuming and challenging, but I also I tell myself to boy, I’m really getting a good brain workout
Peter Bowes: [00:17:29] That’s good.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:17:30] Every day I’m learning something new and I’m forcing my brain to do things that make it very uncomfortable. I had to learn how to build a website and how to, you know, launch a business from no business experience. So I’ve certainly gotten my brain workout in in 2020.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:47] That is certainly a brain workout. Alison, I’m going to pause for a moment. We’ll return to our conversation in less than a minute. You’re listening to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:55] This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new product that helps fill in the financial gaps that are often created. Once you’ve mastered aging and achieved an exceptionally long life, small monthly payments to AgeUp stuck over time to create a secure income stream for your 90s and beyond. Contributions to AgeUp are shielded from market swings, and once pay payout’s begin at age 91 or above, they’re guaranteed to last for life. AgeUp is backed by MassMutual and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency. You can find out more at Age-Up.com That’s Age-Up.com.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:18:33] I’m talking to Alison Weinlaeder, creator of Cardiomelon, it’s actually occurred to me I haven’t actually asked you Cardiomelon. Where does the name come from?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:18:43] I had to stop that one out. I could not come up with a name we had I had hundreds of names that I was going through and finally I said, I can’t do this. So I hired someone here in the Twin Cities and I said, this is my idea and I cannot come up with a name for the life of me. And they were able to help me. Her name is Kris Joy and I love the name and it was her idea. So I have to give credit where credit is due. But it does speak to this concept of, you know, cardio is good for your brain and your body and the melon is your head. And so it’s kind of a simple but really creative. And I think it has a very joyful sound to it.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:22] It does it has a fun sound to it, and, of course, that’s important, isn’t it, to people? Because as I kind of alluded to in my introduction, exercise is great for us, obviously, physically and mentally. But day after day, it can become something that isn’t fun. That’s something you have to do. So I think if you can lighten the entire image of all of this, it is positive for people to especially if they’re reluctant, if they maybe have had a bad experience in the past about starting something and then stopping it. People need an encouragement to do this sort of thing.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:19:54] And I’m curious, do you get a lot of questions from your listeners about like brain exercises or are people talking about that in in your podcast?
Peter Bowes: [00:20:03] People are interested. I’ve got to say, it’s not high upon the list of things that people talk about. And maybe that’s why it’s important to hear from people like you who can explain to us why it is important that we meld the two. And I think that’s what’s most interesting to me, is the fact that you are doing the two at the same time. And what I’m curious about is, is there evidence, is there science to back up the idea that by flexing our muscles, exercising our physical body at the same time as our brain can the sum total of those results, could that be better for us?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:20:36] So there is some emerging evidence, so there has not been a lot of research on this, though, and that is exciting to me and I am hopeful that someone might pick up this topic further. The emerging evidence from like the past three to four years suggests that when there is a combination of cognitive and physical exercise, the participant in that program can make greater cognitive gains than if they were just exercising or just doing cognitive tests alone. So that’s very, very interesting research, but there’s not a lot of it. And with emerging virtual reality technology, there is also some evidence that when people are wearing like a virtual reality headset and exercising, they also might be stimulating their brain in a different way. So we’re kind of seeing these these hints of when we think while we exercise, we might make a little bit greater gain. But even without that evidence, I mean, we know that physical activity encourages the brain to stay strong as we age. And there is some evidence that just cognitive activity alone can help the brain stay strong. But it’s not as strong of evidence. And that’s why I kind of caution people sometimes saying, you know, just sitting and clicking on a website may not result in very functional gains for your brain as you age. It’s certainly there are other activities that could be worse, like just sitting and doing nothing. But I think that there should be some caution when people really invest in thinking that just, you know, doing a kind of click and go thinking task is going to dramatically change the way your brain ages. Physical activity is is probably the most strongly evidenced factor in keeping your brain strong as you age.
Peter Bowes: [00:22:25] For the issue and we’ve touched on this already, but the issue that probably exercises most people buying memory and just not being able to find the keys, those obvious things that happen to people as you get older, although I think that particular issue isn’t unique to someone who is older, but the fact that people feel as if in their 60s, especially 70s, that they are just not as sharp as they used to be from your existing work, not just what you’re doing with Cardiomelon. Can you give me some examples where people have improved their memory by doing these relatively simple brain exercises and how it’s changed them?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:23:00] Well, I think so is a speech therapist are my job and my professional goals are to help people kind of learn how to think smarter. So when I’m working with someone who has a memory impairment, we think about strategies. So, you know, what are you going to do to visualize where you put those keys down or how are you going to make your habits work with your current level of function? So I only put my keys in the same place every time, every day. So it’s almost learning to think about your brain in a little bit different way. And during the Cardiomelon workouts, at the end of every video I give, kind of like a little memory tip or a thinking tip that might help people use their memory skills and a little bit different way. So even when I present a memory task with individual say, like, OK, here come three words, I want you to try to remember them until the end of the workout. And I’ll offer suggestions that I pull from my speech therapy training that would be like, OK, I want you to visualize these words or I want you to repeat them back to yourself or make some kind of association so you can remember these better when I ask you again in about 20 minutes what they were. So it’s in a way, it’s also training strategies that will help you think smarter and be more successful with your memory in your daily life.
Peter Bowes: [00:24:14] And imagine age better as well, because if people are more confident about their memory and their mental ability more across the board, they are going to move forward with more confidence. Because I think if people are not confident in that area, there’s a chance that they’re going to retreat into themselves. And we all know that loneliness for older people can be such a huge problem. And it could start with a feeling that mentally they’re not up to doing what they used to do.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:24:41] Absolutely, and I frequently use the word mpower when I talk about this program. I want people to be empowered that they can control their brain health. And they can take steps today to make their brain stronger. It is not a process you just have to accept and say that’s just the way it is. You can take steps to make your brain stronger.
Peter Bowes: [00:25:02] Now, this is a podcast about human longevity, not living forever, not being eternal, not being immortal, but exploring the possibility that we can expand our healthspan the number of years that we enjoy optimum health as opposed to lifespan where it may not be so great in the final few years. And I’m curious, from your perspective, with your expertise, is healthspan or the way that you will be in a few decades time as you grow older? Have you tweaked your lifestyle? Have you done things perhaps by taking part in your own program, which you’ve already mentioned, but specifically that you think about on a day to day basis as you pursue a longer, healthier life?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:25:44] Yeah, you know, I think about it every day because I see examples of people who’ve lost their independence and they you know, when you have a severe brain injury or a stroke and some of some of, you know, there are genetic components and predetermined factors in your life. But a lot of lifestyle factors, though, you know, I review people’s health charts in great detail when they come into my office, before I treat them, after they’ve had a stroke. And you see very clear patterns of, you know, poor diabetes management, sedentary life lifestyle, weight management issues, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption. And every day it reinforces for me that my behaviors for the next several decades can greatly impact what the quality of my life will be like when I’m, you know, much older. In a way, it’s a blessing. It’s it can be very challenging. But it’s a good reminder how important my behaviors today are. And that’s not to say there are some people who just very unfortunately have had, you know, terrible brain injuries and strokes, you know, for no fault of their own. But we do know that exercise is so, so vital even once someone has had one stroke. If you want to prevent it happening again, you’ve got to get moving and make exercise a priority. So in my life, I love the idea of exercise snacks because I am so busy. I give my brain exercise snacks, I call it across the day, so I might do stairs for six minutes in between patients. If someone’s running late, I will take a ten minute walk on my lunch break. I will try to get ten minutes on our exercise bike in our house when I get home at the end of the day or just before bed, because I don’t have a full gap in my day to do a 30 to 40 minute workout because I’m so busy that I just try to get in a little bit here and there. And I know that that cumulatively will be very beneficial for me. The other things I do, which you might laugh about, I always you I’m a right handed individual, but I love to use my left hand to stimulate the opposite side of my brain. So I’ll take notes sometimes with my left hand in the middle of my appointments. I wash dishes using my left hand. I’ll try brushing my teeth with my left hand and just doing things I’ll try to remember, like a license plate I saw or the slogan on a billboard just to give my brain a little bit of extra workout. And I really try to remember, like, we have so many passwords in our lives, I can’t remember them all. But occasionally I’ll say, OK, I’ve got to remember this password and I’ll make myself really work hard to remember, like a door code or a password, because we use those all the time here in the hospital. So in that way, I like to keep my brain really active. And the one thing I regret that I don’t have as much time to do is I’m not doing as much reading for pleasure. And we know that reading is really, really valuable for the brain. I also love learning languages. So in my sessions, even in some of the Cardiomelon workouts will present like a word in another language that people have to try to remember. So those activities that I find engaging and fun I’m working in and I’m hoping that they will kind of bank away in my mind so that it’s stronger as I get older.
Peter Bowes: [00:28:51] Yeah, they’re engaging and they’re fun and actually they’re quite inspiring, just listening to list or all of those things, some of which I hadn’t thought about, the idea of seeing a license plate and trying to remember it for the rest of the day, let alone actually remember my own license plate, which for some unfathomable reason is actually quite difficult for me to do. I don’t know why that should be. I can remember the one that my dad had 40 years ago, 50 years ago even. But I struggle with what I’ve got now anyway. That’s my issue. I was curious, you say left handed and right handed, purposefully using your left hand to do things. Is the science to suggest that by doing that we can in some way alter our brain the way that it works?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:29:30] I guess I don’t want to put myself on the spot
Peter Bowes: [00:29:32] Sure. Understand
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:29:33] That that will do everything, but I know that it’s I just I know that it’s putting my brain outside its comfort zone. And any time you try learning something new, you’re stimulating your brain.
Peter Bowes: [00:29:43] You still, as we’ve discussed, a relatively new entity and I can only imagine how challenging it has been. You talked about learning how to set up the website and you have a great website and it certainly doesn’t look like a new amateur website. It looks very professional. It’s very easy to to navigate. Now, I would recommend anyone takes a look at it. But what’s next for Cardiomelon?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:30:02] One of the things I’m really excited about in the coming year is that I’ll be partnering with a researcher from the University of Minnesota here in the Twin Cities to do some research on the outcomes of people who participate in Cardiomelon. So we’ll have volunteers trial the program for about three months and complete pre and post surveys. And we’re hoping to develop some evidence that would show whether or not this program is as effective as I believe it to be. So that’s very, very exciting that we have the potential to produce some research around Cardiomelon.
Peter Bowes: [00:30:35] As far as Cardiomelon is concerned, how would you like to see it progress?
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:30:38] Oh, you know, I’d like to keep adding more workouts, one of my goals for this next year is to keep adding more trainers with diverse fitness backgrounds. So I want really everyone to see themselves in these videos, because I think that if we have a diverse group of trainers, then as many people as possible say, hey, that could be me. And I’ve been very intentional about hiring trainers who reflect the audience that I’m trying to reach. So these are people with many decades of experience working in the fitness industry, and I think they’re very, very well-trained and very specialized to support the needs of people over 40 and over 50 into their 60s, 70s and 80s. So I’d like to add more content just to make things fun and exciting. I’m always thinking of new brain challenges to add. I think that it might be nice to try to support more members through possibly some scholarship opportunities, because I know that financially this is a very challenging time. So that’s something I’m thinking about into the next year or two because I just want this program to be accessible to as many people as possible. And we have I mean, I’ve really worked to keep the costs low because every day I see that, you know, people who are not working or retired are living on a very fixed income a lot of times. And I don’t want that to be a barrier to health and wellness for the people who want to use Cardiomelon.
Peter Bowes: [00:32:07] Well, I think, Alison, you’re doing some really exciting work, and I wish you all the best with it. Thank you very much indeed.
Alison Weinlaeder: [00:32:12] This has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Peter Bowes: [00:32:16] And if you’d like to find out more about Alison’s work and Cardiomelon, I’ll put some of the details into the show notes for this episode. You’ll find them at the Live Long and Master Aging website, LLAMApodcast.com – LLAMApodcast.com
Peter Bowes: [00:32:16] The LLAMA podcast is at HealthSpan Media production. If you enjoy what we do, you can write and reviewers at Apple podcasts. You can follow us on social media @LLAMApodcast and direct message me @PeterBowes. Take care and many thanks for listening.