The Power of Exercise As We Age

Anne and Rocci using resistance bands to stay fit.
Anne and Rocci using resistance bands to stay fit

When we picture exercising in our mind’s eye, we probably don’t envision an 87-year-old riding a recumbent bike and performing bicep curls, or a 94-year-old enjoying a resistance anneonexercisebikeband workout. Well, savor these pictures of Anne, 87 and Rocci, 94, participating in their daily exercise routine. Not your typical health magazine cover models, but as inspiring as any chiseled body you’ll ever see on the newsstands.  It’s unfortunate that the images portrayed all over the media hyper-focus on fitness as a youth oriented commodity. The elderly, for lack of a better word, benefit as much, if not more, from a regular fitness regimen than any other age group.  Recent studies have shown that exercising daily in one’s 70s can extend overall lifespan by 5 years. That’s a powerful statistic.

And it’s not just about living longer. Staying mobile and maintaining strength, power and balance in our sunset years is vital for quality of life.  Living a long time is meaningless if we are not living well. And living well includes staving off chronic illness, maintaining independent living, improving motor function, increasing mental function and achieving freedom from pain. Exercise is key to accomplishing and fulfilling these needs.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, exercise is medicine and is safe for us well into our 90s as long as we are assessed and receive clearance from a medical professional.  In addition, for many older adults, being monitored during exercise by a health and fitness professional such as a physical therapist or personal trainer is necessary for safety.

annewithweightsThe key to exercising as an older adult is working within the boundaries of an aging body. This means using a functional fitness paradigm. In other words, the exercise program should be designed to assist and even increase ability for daily functions of living such as getting in out of chairs, bending down to tie shoes, preparing meals, housekeeping, bathing and other self-care needs. Fitting into skinny jeans is not a priority.

Yes, as we age, joints feel stiff and creaky, balance is shaky, eyesight and hearing deteriorate, speed and power become compromised and slow us down. We can’t and don’t want to deny these facts. What we can do is exercise to slow down the slow-down! Study after study has proven that the most effective choice we can make for staving off debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Depression, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart Disease is choosing to exercise.

Here is a list of great fitness activities for older adults, and the benefits derived:

1-    Strength Training
–      Increased muscle mass, bone density and joint strength
–      Increased feeling of vitality
–      Increased ability for self-care and independent living
–      Decreased risk of falls and injuries due to falls

2-    Walking
–     Increased circulation
–     Increased aerobic capacity
–     Increased joint strength
–     Improved balance
–     Improved sleep
–     Improved mood
–     Improved brain function and memory

3-Yoga
–       Increased joint range of motion and flexibility
–       Improved sleep
–       Improved sense of well-being
–       Reduced blood pressure
–       Chronic pain relief
–       Gentle on the body

3-    Tai Chi
–       Improved balance
–       Improved lower body muscle strength
–       Improved flexibility
–       Improved sleep
–       Enhanced mental capacity and concentration
–       Decreased blood pressure
–       Relieves stress
–       Gentle on the body

Research senior centers, gyms, the YMCA and private trainers for programs offered for older adults. And remember, it’s never too late to start!

 

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About Deborah Brooks

Deborah Brooks, CSCS is the Owner of Everfit Body She lives in Hancock Park with her husband and two sons. She is a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, UCLA Certified Fitness Instructor and Precision Nutrition Coach.

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