Use It or Lose It Exercise for Seniors

Article excerpt

"What we lose with age, we can afford to lose," said philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Many of the problems that people associate with `aging' are not really due to aging, but rather a lack of activity. If you're a non- exerciser over the age of 65, you can expect higher blood pressure, increased body fat, loss of muscle, less elasticity in connective tissues, diminishing lung capacity, osteoporosis, lower glucose tolerance, and less elasticity in major blood vessels.

Staying physically active is simply the key to good health in later years.

It is the physiological age that matters, not the chronological age. The body can stay young functionally with mild, regular exercise. Many studies show that older adults who exercise look younger, feel better, have more energy, sleep better, have fewer medical visits and stay more active in all areas of their lives.

Just what does exercise do for older adults? Research has shown that:

Regular, aerobic exercise such as swimming and running, raises your heart rate and may greatly reduce stiffening and clogging of the arteries. Stiff, clogged arteries are a major cause of high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

People who are physically active are less likely to develop adult onset diabetes or they can control their diabetes better if they have it. Exercise increases the body's ability to control the blood glucose levels.

Strength training, such as lifting weights or exercising against resistance, can make bones stronger, improve balance, and increase muscle strength and mass. This ultimately slows or prevents osteoporosis and may lower the risk of falls which can cause hip fractures or other injuries. Strength training can also lessen arthritis pain, since it builds stronger muscles, which can ease the strain and pain of arthritis.

Physical activity and exercise are good for your mental health.

Older adults repeatedly say they feel better after exercise and are less stressed and anxious.

It's never too late to begin. A study from Tufts and Harvard Universities started a group of senior adults whose average age was 90 weight lifting three times a week. In six weeks, they had increased their muscle strength on an average of 180 percent which in turn increased their average walking speed by 48 percent.

Choosing an

exercise program

"No matter how old you are, there is a physical activity and an exercise program that can fit your needs and skill level. Particularly with older adults, before starting an exercise program I strongly recommend seeing your physician or better yet going through the St. Anthony Score program, which gives you a comprehensive medical exam, including a stress test, and evaluates your physical fitness level and diet. This information tells us your present capabilities, so we can help you choose an activity and nutritional plan that are best for you and your goals," explains Michael Stephens, exercise physiologist and director of the St. Anthony Score program.

"After a physical evaluation, your fitness program would include stretching, strength training, and aerobic exercise. In selecting an activity, it is very important to find something you like to do, whether or not you want to exercise with a group or by yourself, and finding a way to make it very convenient. Numerous studies show that exercise adherence depends greatly on liking the particular exercise and making if fun and convenient," continues Stephens.

A comprehensive exercise plan includes stretching, strength training, and some kind of aerobic activity.

Stretching for 10 to 15 minutes is recommended both before and after exercise. …