Exercise Tips for Seniors

This article will discuss the types of exercises you can do to keep your body fit. Exercise has countless benefits for persons of all ages resulting in a healthy heart, stronger bones, and improved flexibility. In addition for seniors, there are additional benefits like the fact that regular exercise can reduce the chances of chronic diseases, lower the risk of injuries, and can even improve one’s mood.

The reason for exercise is that as we age, our muscle mass tend to decrease gradually between the third and the eightieth decade (3 to 4 % in each decade) of our life. The decrease of our lean muscle mass which contributes to controlling metabolic rate. Maintaining metabolic rate helps in burning calories to keep weight down, and to strengthen our bones and can affect balance.

It is never too late to strengthen muscles. The body is responsive to strength training at any age. It can help to reduce symptoms of common problems, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, diabetes and depression. Strength training does not mean building large muscles. Strength training 2 to 4 times a week can increase strength by building lean muscles. Studies have shown that a small amount strength of training can increase bone density, overall strength and balance reducing the risk of falls, preventing fractures.

Our endurance decreases with age. However, our body responds to positively to endurance fitness training, such as walking. Any activity which increases heart and breathing for extended periods is considered endurance exercise. In addition to walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, and tennis are considered endurance activities.

Flexibility also decreases with age. Flexibility allows for more freedom of movement and greater range of motion. Areas to pay attention to are neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles.

Balance is also affected as we age leading the likely increases of falls which can cause fractures. The National Institute of Health estimates that that one third of people over the age of 65 fall each year often resulting in injuries which are the major cause of surgeries and disability among seniors. Balance and strength exercises can help to maintain balance.

Bone density decreases as we age which may result in osteoporosis – a condition in which the bones become fragile and weak resulting in fractures. Osteoporosis is more common in women than men. Weight bearing activities is particularly helpful as this results in the bones to work harder. Strength and endurance training helps to strengthen the bones.

Joint problems can also be affected by the aging process. For example, osteoarthritis is a condition that occurs when the cartilages between the bone joints break down causing stiffness. One of the best ways to manage osteoarthritis is to stay active and keep a healthy weight. The lack of exercise can result in stiffness and weak joints. As described earlier, exercise in the form of range of movement, strength, endurance and flexibility.

Exercise can help with cognitive (mental) functioning in seniors. Studies have shown that activity can improve memory loss and depression. It is thought that exercise can help to improve mood in older adults as they may experience periods of feeling depressed. Exercise can have an antidepressant effect as it is thought that exercise increases serotonin in the brain resulting in positive mood.

It is never too late to exercise as movement and activity has a positive effect on the body.

Written by Tom Teranishi

Japanese translation by Tomoko Koike

This article was originally published in July 2017 issue of the Bulletin.

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