Active Aging: It’s never too late

Mercia Walt/ Physical Educator
21 December, 2016

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You are never too old or it is never too late to exercise. An active lifestyle is essential to maintain a good quality of life, as you age; it can even reverse the symptoms of aging. Often starting or maintaining regular exercise can be challenging as people grow older. Injuries and illnesses may discourage some people to start, but taking the benefits of exercise into consideration should be a motivation to all. Research suggests that 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily should provide the ultimate health benefits. It is important to get medical clearance from a doctor before starting an exercise program, more specific if a person has not been active or has a preexisting condition.

Benefits of an active lifestyle

An active lifestyle has numerous benefits, it reduces the impact of chronic conditions and illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer, dementia, osteoporosis and cancer. Regular exercise increases muscle mass. As a result of aging, muscle mass decreases to the extent that people tend to spend more time sitting and lying down. Bone density starts declining after the age of 40 and declines further after 50; therefore, exercise, specifically weight bearing activities, helps keep bones strong and healthy. Moderate intensity exercise can improve cardiorespiratory fitness which is beneficial for the heart and lungs. Exercise improves your flexibility, strength and posture which in turn would help with balance and coordination. Moreover, exercise improves sleeping patterns and produces endorphins that have an overall positive effect on a person’s mood.

How exercise improves certain conditions as people age?

As people grow older, their body changes, thus, encountering complications such as stiffness and swelling of joints and bones, which is often accompanied with pain. A doctor, exercise physiologist or physical therapist, after examining your condition, will be able to recommend the suitable exercise.

Chronic conditions related to muscles, bones, and joints can be worsened if not proper exercise is done. Research shows that physical activity is safe and beneficial for people with arthritis, osteoporosis, and many other conditions.

Having chronic back pain can be relieved by doing muscle strengthening exercises of the stomach, hips and thighs. In fact, these strengthening exercises can help prevent the chronic conditions from getting worse.  However, those having acute back pain, are not advised to exercise.

Although there are many types of arthritis, the two most common types are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability of people above the age of 55 and causes pain due to cartilage degeneration and underlining bone in the joint. Exercise helps strengthen muscles around the joints and supports their flexibility, as well as bones and cartilage, which eventually reduces pain.

Beneficial exercises for supporting active ageing population

Aerobic exercise increases heart rate and breathing which are good for the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Some activities can be, walking, swimming, biking, climbing and some racquet sports such as tennis. Working in the back yard, cleaning house like vacuuming and even pushing your grandchild on a swing can be beneficial. Furthermore, stretching helps your body stay flexible, even by doing daily activities such as fixing your bed, bending to tie shoe laces and washing the car can support you in stretching. Balance exercises can prevent falls and activities such as standing on one foot or toes and walking up and down stairs are activities which improve balance. Muscle strengthening exercise, like lifting light weight and using your own body weight, can support you to use the stairs, carry bags of groceries and taking care of yourself.

It is worth mentioning that some activity is better than none. Taking all the above in consideration: Why not start today?



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