“I’m too old to exercise and weight train” says my friend Adam. At 78, he has all the more reason to engage in an exercise program. Even if it is simply to maintain the function he currently has. Current Canadian statistics are recording gradual increases in life expectancy with 80 years of age for males and 84 years of age for females being the norm. The list goes on for revealing the advantages of regular exercise, however here are 10 sure bet reasons:
- Increase or maintain bone density:
Osteoporosis is often the main cause of fractures in the elderly. By maintaining bone density through low impact exercise, we can maintain bone strength and/or build on it. Every day exercise such as walking, and a supplement of vitamin D and calcium can help maintain bone strength and health.
Exercise can reduce depression and enhance self- esteem and a feeling of wellness. Exercise can certainly boost those endorphins to enhance your well-being and allow you to do things you may otherwise not do. Engage in group exercise classes to increase social context or ask a friend to join you. Statistics show that when you exercise with a buddy, you will be more inclined to keep exercising.
- Increase Metabolism – Manage Weight
Strength training increases muscle mass, which raises your metabolism and your ability to control weight. Being overweight is the number one reason for increase in diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
- Manage medical conditions
A regular sustained exercise program of at least 3-4 times per week will help you manage medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and depression. Statistics show that individuals with Parkinson’s disease manage symptoms by exercising on a regular basis; those with diabetes and high blood pressure may see sharp decreases in values often requiring reduction of medications used to manage them.
- Cognitive Function
Exercise is good for the mind. Group exercises & seated exercise programs are excellent choices for those with cognitive decline. The social context of exercise is also beneficial for the senior with dementia. Recent studies have shown that exercise may improve memory and slow down mental decline
- Fall reduction
Balance is often a concern for elderly patients, especially those with a sedentary lifestyle. Muscle imbalance and overall weakness will cause one to stumble. By exercising, muscle strength and muscle balance can be restored causing increased reflex action.
Range of motion exercises and stretching are very important as we age. Programs such as gentle yoga in addition to strength and cardiovascular programing will benefit you immensely.
- Weight Management
A good exercise program should address weight management by designing a comprehensive program which includes cardiovascular training, strength training, stretching and a diet regime to assist you in weight loss. Meeting with a dietician can be very helpful in determining which foods are high in the glycemic index and assist in making good choices. As we age, our calorie needs diminish – or our calorie intake requirements are directly related to our physical activity levels.
- Functional Strength
Functional strength is defined as having the ability to perform all aspects of activities of daily living (ADL’s). If you enjoy gardening, you must maintain strong core and back muscles, to allow you to keep doing the things you love. Maintaining strong arms and legs will assist you in rising. Being able to transfer safely is the most important ADL of all!
- Aging in Place – Staying Independent
The number one choice for seniors today is to stay at home as long as possible. This can be arranged through managing all aspects of health through exercise, proper diet, regular physician checkups and downsizing as you age, to assist you with the physical changes in the aging process.
Written by Johanna Booy, of Care & Company Ltd., SeniorCareVictoria.ca.