Aging Well – Time To Get Moving, Seniors And Exercise

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
By Mr. Noah Kaminer, Administrator

Chaim used to lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle. He lived on the ground floor, he drove to work every day, and his wife had their groceries delivered. The most exercise Chaim got on a weekly basis was his Shabbos afternoon walk — then Chaim turned 60.

After gaining considerable weight over the years, he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and high blood pressure. Now, Chaim has a daily exercise regime, lost 40 pounds, has more energy — and feels as if he’s discovered the fountain of youth.

As people grow older, exercise is the key to staying strong, energetic, and healthy. Since the body’s metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight becomes challenging. Exercise helps increase metabolism and build muscle mass, which helps the senior burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. It can also help manage the symptoms of illness and pain, and even reverse some of the symptoms of aging. Regular exercise can prevent or delay diabetes and heart trouble, and reduce arthritis pain. Other benefits of exercise for seniors include improved immune function, better blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning. Seniors who exercise regularly also have a lower risk of several chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.

And exercise is not only good for the body—it’s good for the mind. Exercise benefits the brain, keeping it active, preventing memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Exercise may even help slow the progression of certain brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Endorphins produced by exercise can actually help reduce feelings of sadness or depression and give renewed energy. Exercise also helps combats insomnia or other sleep disorders, leading to a deeper and better quality sleep, which will lead to a refreshed and sharper mind and a more energetic body.

There are four main types of exercises that are important for helping seniors gain health benefits:
Cardio endurance exercises (like walking, swimming, or riding a bike) improve the health of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Not only do these exercises increase breathing and heart rate, they build stamina and staying power. This increased stamina help some seniors live independently and perform simple life skills such as climbing stairs, cleaning, running errands or grocery shopping.

Strength exercises (like weights, machines, or elastic bands) build muscle, improve balance and help prevent age related loss of muscle and bone mass – all important factors in staying active and preventing falls. Strength exercises also help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis as well as increase the metabolism, helping keep weight and blood sugars in check. Building up strength will help seniors stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier, such as opening jars, getting in and out of the car, carrying groceries, and lifting objects.

Balance exercises can help prevent a common problem for seniors — falls. In older people, falls are a major cause of broken hips and other injuries that often lead to disabilities and loss of independence. Some balance exercises build up the leg muscles; others improve balance through simple activities like briefly standing on one leg. Yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises also improve balance.

Flexibility exercises keep the body limber by stretching the muscles and the tissues that hold the body’s structures in place. These stretching exercises help increase the range of movement for ordinary physical activities such as looking behind you while driving, tying shoes, shampooing hair, and playing with grandchildren.

The good news is—regardless of age, health or fitness level – everyone can benefit from moving more. It’s never too early, or too late to reap the benefits of exercise. Aging is inevitable, but some of the things that happen to the body in the aging process can be controlled or even reversed with regular exercise. Whether it’s a formal trip to the gym, walking to the bus or the store, vigorously vacuuming or lifting weights, seniors need to get active. What may seem like very small changes resulting from exercise and physical activity can have a big impact, boosting energy, maintaining health, the mind, and independence. For seniors to age well, it is time to get moving.