Make Physical Activity Your Top Resolution for 2015

Too busy to compile a list of New Year’s resolutions? How about a single resolution which will have a Elderly Exercisepositive effect on your physical, emotional and mental health? Take advantage of the “miracle drug” of physical activity! Why call exercise a “miracle drug”? Here are just a few things researchers recently had to say about the benefits of exercising for seniors and people of every age:

  • University of Texas at Dallas researchers demonstrated both short-term and long-term improvement in blood flow to the brain when senior subjects exercised—and a corresponding improvement in memory.
  • French researchers recently confirmed that taking part in an exercise program reduces the risk of falling for older adults.
  • The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that regular moderate exercise reduces the risk of stroke.
  • The American College of Rheumatology said that regular exercise reduces pain and boosts quality of life for people with arthritis.
  • The American Heart Association issued a recommendation that doctors evaluate patients’ physical activity habits as routinely as they check blood pressure and other risks for cardiovascular diseases.

Prof. Osvaldo Almeida of the University of Western Australia recently stated, “The message is, it’s never too late to start physical activity, and by engaging in regular physical activity, older people not only survive longer, but they ensure that the chance of them aging successfully—without significant functional impairments—also increases. Not only do they add years to life, but they add quality to their years.”

All seniors can safely do some form of regular exercise, no matter what medical problems or disabilities they face. In fact, frail or disabled persons have the most to gain. It’s never too late to start! Before beginning an exercise program, talk to your healthcare provider, and get a “prescription” for an exercise program that’s right for you. In general, older adults need to have several major components in their exercise routine:

Aerobic exercise is activity which increases your heart rate and breathing, bringing more oxygen to the body. When the heart pumps harder, the muscles of the blood vessel walls strengthen and become more flexible, reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and all other vital organs. The heart, a muscle itself, becomes stronger and stronger. Any activity that makes your heart pump faster and makes you breathe a little harder, such as walking quickly or dancing, is aerobic exercise.

Muscle strengthening and flexibility exercise programs are offered at community centers, senior centers, and health clubs. The old cliché “use it or lose it” is really true: when we don’t use our muscles, they slowly atrophy (become small and weak). And when the ligaments that hold our joints together are not stretched to their fullest length regularly, they shorten, reducing flexibility. The good news is that you can get back much of your muscle strength and flexibility, no matter how weak or stiff you’ve become!

Balance training instruction and classes can help prevent falls, and enhance confidence in exercising. Balance problems are very common as we grow older, resulting from loss of muscle strength, decreased flexibility, and loss of sensation in the feet. Activities such as tai chi improve proprioception—our sense of body placement.

Increasing regular physical activity is the most important prescription your doctor can give you to improve overall health and well-being. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and enjoy the improvement you will experience in body and in mind.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014.


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