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Fitness at Any Age: Regardless of Age, Weight or Athletic Ability….
Exercise is an important key to aging successfully. It’s never too late to start. In the following slides we will look at how our bodies age, the benefits of exercising into old age, and tips to get started on your fitness journey.
As we age, muscle mass decreases. Between the third and eighth decades of life, we lose up to 15% of our lean muscle mass, which contributes to a lower metabolic rate, as we get older. Maintaining muscle strength and mass helps burn calories to maintain a healthy weight, strengthens bones, and restores balance.
It’s never too late to exercise and build muscle. The body is responsive to strength training at any age. Strength training can help reduce symptoms of some common problems we encounter as we age including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression.
Strength doesn’t just involve building large muscles. Lifting weights just two or three times a week can increase strength by building lean muscle. Studies have shown that even this small an amount of strength training can increase bone density, overall strength, and balance. It can also reduce the risk of falls that can lead to fractures.
Just as muscle mass declines with age, so does endurance. The good news is that the body also responds to endurance fitness training such as walking. Any activity that increases heart rate and breathing for an extended period is considered endurance exercise. In addition to walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, and tennis are all endurance activities.
Along with muscle mass and endurance, flexibility also decreases as we age. But like strength and endurance, flexibility too can be improved. Increased flexibility allows for more freedom of movement and greater range of motion. Areas to pay attention to are the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles.
As we age, balance decreases and falls can lead to fractures. The National Institutes of Health estimates more than one-third of people over the age of 65 fall each year, often resulting in injuries such as hip fractures which are a major cause of surgeries and disability among the elderly. Balance and strength exercises can help maintain balance and reduce the risk of falling.
As we age, bone density decreases as well and can lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become fragile and weak, and are more prone to fractures. More than 40 million Americans have or are at risk for osteoporosis, and it is more common in women than in men. Exercise can increase bone strength and density. Weight-bearing activity in particular is useful as this causes the bones to work harder. Strength training as well strengthens muscles and helps strengthen bones.
Exercise helps with cognitive function. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can slow declines in memory and protect against dementia.
Exercise has been shown to improve mood. Depression is common in older adults, and exercise can have an antidepressant effect. It is thought that exercise may increase serotonin in the brain, which leads to better moods and less depression.
Any activity that increases heart rate and breathing for an extended period is considered endurance exercise. Endurance and aerobic exercises are good for your heart, lungs, and the circulatory system. Endurance gives you stamina for daily tasks, and can prevent many aging-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Walking, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics classes, and tennis are all types of endurance exercise. Many gyms and senior centers offer exercise classes for seniors. Endurance exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
Strength exercises will make you not only stronger, they will help you remain able to perform daily tasks, and they can increase metabolism allowing you to maintain a healthy weight. Strength exercises also play a role in keeping blood sugar levels healthy, which is important in preventing diabetes and obesity. Strength and resistance training may also help prevent osteoporosis by helping you maintain strong bones.
Exercises for flexibility help stretch muscles and surrounding connecting tissues. Stretching can prevent injuries and may help prevent falls. Yoga is an excellent way to improve flexibility. There are many different types of yoga so you can find one that suits your needs. Yoga studios, gyms, and the “Y” offer classes, and you can also do yoga at home with the help of DVDs, books, or apps for your phone.