You’re never too old to exercise! It’s a necessary part of maintaining optimum health at any age. Although the natural process of growing older can bring a decrease in strength and energy, as well as medical conditions that can make exercising more challenging, there are still many ways to keep fit.
As we age physiologically, we experience changes in our overall fitness level. Some of the changes are inevitable, while others are preventable. Exercise can minimize age-related loss of bone density and muscle mass, while keeping the heart and lungs fit. Keeping up a regular fitness program can also improve balance, promote better sleep, decrease stress, fight depression and increase self esteem, proving that the benefits of exercise for seniors are wide spread.
One of the healthiest decisions you can make is committing to a regular exercise program. But before you do, get a medical clearance from your physician. Ask if there are any medical conditions that need to be taken into account before you start. Are there any physical activities that should be avoided? As an example, if you have diabetes, should timing of medications and meals be coordinated around your exercise? If the exercise program you have chosen is bothering your joints or just doesn’t feel right, then stop and find another activity that makes your body feel good.
While just about any type of movement will yield benefits, make sure that you analyze your choice to assure the four aspects of fitness are addressed.
*Cardio/endurance — Walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, etc., increase the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and take away waste products. These types of exercise use large muscles groups and get your heart pumping and reduce fatigue and shortness of breath.
* Strength/resistance training — Exercises that use external weight, such as the use of body weight, machines or elastic tubing. These exercises help with bone loss prevention and balance and will build muscle. They help with making the activities of daily living, such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car and playing with the grandchildren, easier.
*Flexibility — Stretching challenges the ability of joints to move freely through a range of motion and keep muscles limber so that they are less prone to injury. Stretching enables helps you with activities, such as bending over to tie your shoes, turning your head when driving and shampooing your hair.
*Balance — Balance exercises are basically incorporating strength and flexibility into stability. Yoga, Tai Chi and simple posture exercises help to increase and maintain solid footing while walking or standing. It also will give confidence while lessening the possibility of falls.
Even if you are wheelchair- or walker-bound or not fully mobile, there are a multitude of exercises that can be done to enhance your health. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Talk to your doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor or personal trainer for ideas on how improve your health through exercise.
No matter what your age or physical condition, it has been proven that fitness is essential to wellness and enhanced quality of life!
Scott Jackson, CSCS, MES, B.S. Physical Education, owner of Scott Jackson’s Real Life Fitness Personal Training Services in Nevada City, is an NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist, medical exercise specialist and an IDEA master trainer. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 530-265-4041 or visit www.reallifefitness.net or our Facebook page for more information.