Never Too Old
Aging is one of life’s inevitabilities and while a certain amount of physical (and sometimes mental) breakdown is unavoidable, it IS possible to slow the aging process and make sure that you remain fit and healthy for as long as possible.
Medical science has improved exponentially over the last 50 years to the extent that the current average life span is the longest it has ever been. People ARE living longer but what is the point of being “the oldest swinger in town” if you can no longer swing like you want to?!
In this article, I want to briefly explain some of the main benefits of exercise for seniors.
Improved Bone Mass
Bone mass (the strength and density of your bones) decreases naturally as you age. The drop in bone mass is more significant for women but also happens in men. This loss of bone mass can mean that a typical senior is more at risk of suffering a fracture than a younger person, especially in a fall.
Weight-bearing exercises such as resistance training and walking can help slow the rate of bone loss and even increase bone mass. When combined with a healthy diet, this means that seniors who exercise are less likely to develop osteoporosis – a medical condition characterized by very brittle and weak bones.
Increased Muscle Mass
As bone mass declines with age, so does muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass usually leads to a loss of strength. Initially, a little muscle loss is of little significance but over time and left untreated can mean that even the most basic physical tasks, such as climbing stairs or getting out of bed, become impossible.
Like bone loss, muscle loss is all but inevitable for seniors but it can be slowed down and even reversed with the right kind of exercise.
If you want to remain strong in your golden years, you need to hit the weights. You don’t have to take up bodybuilding but 2-3 whole body strength workouts per week can really preserve/increase your muscle mass and therefore and improve your ability to be independent and preserve your quality of life.
Seniors are more prone to suffering a fall than younger people. This is due to a number of factors including reduced mobility, age-related loss of eyesight, muscle weakness and lack of walking practice. Because many seniors have weak bones, a fall can be catastrophic and result in serious bone fractures.
Regular exercise can help reduce many of the risk factors associated with suffering a fall and also help prevent a fall from happening in the first place. Exercises such as those performed in the standing position help teach balance and increased muscular strength means that falls become less likely. It’s a win-win!
Mobility is the term used to describe the range of movement at a joint or joints and is partly related to muscle flexibility and partly related to joint health. Exercise helps to keep your muscles supple and can also enhance joint health. Exercises that use a controlled but large range of movement help keep joints mobile while keeping the surrounding muscles strong.
In exercise, there is an adage that says, “use it or lose it”. In other words, if you want to keep your body functioning well, you need to keep moving it. A long term commitment to exercise can help make your senior years much more enjoyable and this is especially true of your knees, hips, shoulders and spine are mobile, stable and strong.
Improved Mental Function
Exercise is very important for physical health but did you know it can also enhance mental health too? Exercise increases blood flow to all the tissues of the body and that includes your brain. All that increased blood flow means your brain gets lots essential oxygen and nutrients to keep it healthy.
Some mental function decline is linked to genetic factors but many senior report improved memory and cognitive ability as a result of physical exercise. It seems that, for seniors, working out regularly can help keep your mind sharp.
Exercise for Seniors – Just Do It!
If you care about a long and healthy life, one that is productive and enjoyable right through your golden years, regular exercise is a must. Sedentary seniors might live a long life but unless your idea of fun is sitting in a chair all day every day, it really pays to get up, get out and be active!
By Mark Darco CPT
Mark Darco is a professional personal trainer with 15 years experience and has worked with hundreds of clients. He has successfully completed multiple certifications and continues to provide fitness training to clients of all ages in the NYC area.