Five Reasons Older Adults Should Exercise
This weekend we celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday. With a host of friends and family, we enjoyed good food, great company, and shared in a wonderful birthday experience.
As I took part in all of the festivities, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate as I thought about what it means to reach 80 years old in a society that’s plagued by so many health issues today. I’m blessed to have an active and spry parent who is mobile and can function without much support at her age.
As we age, the tendency is to exercise less, when in fact exercise may be the most important component of a healthy life. Many are familiar with the benefits of aerobic exercise, but resistance training can be just as important. Resistance exercise uses weights or your own body weight and is the only type of exercise that can maintain muscle and metabolism as we age.
Age brings ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and a host of other medical conditions and concerns. Here are five great reasons for seniors to exercise.
- A common and extremely dangerous condition affecting older individuals is cardiovascular disease. Exercise reduces the chances of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing body fat, lowering cholesterol, and increasing heart health.
- As we age, the tendency is to become more sedentary. Movement through exercise increases muscle mass and improves the body’s ability to use glucose. These two benefits greatly reduce the chance of Type II Diabetes.
- Osteoporosis is prevalent in older populations because bone health typically deteriorates with age. Exercise and resistance training in particular, increases bone mass, makes the bones stronger, and reduces the chance of osteoporosis.
- Low back pain doesn’t discriminate as it affects both young and older individuals. The most common cause of low back pain is week low back muscles. Exercise and proper training can improve core strength, decrease the chance of low back injury, and reduce low back pain.
- Arthritis is another common ailment among older generations. Improved muscular strength improves joint function and reduces the discomfort associated with arthritic pain.
Exercise also burns calories, reduces the risks of stroke, psychological stress, weight gain, colon and other types of cancer, and improves sleep and digestion.
Two to three days of resistance training each week is sufficient. Keep the pace of repetitions slow and allow your body to go through the full range of motion (if limbs and flexibility allows) for each exercise. The focus should be on major muscle groups such as the legs, back, and chest. Aerobic endurance training should be accomplished 2-5 days per week for 20-60 minutes each.
Aerobic and resistance training provide more benefits to older adults than any other age group, and therefore each should be a part of every senior fitness program. As always, you should consult a physician before beginning any type of exercise program, particularly if you have one of the conditions listed above. When performed smartly, exercises can keep us and our loved ones around for a very long time.
Happy Birthday, Mom…