"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
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
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
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.
"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. …