As we age, our bodies naturally go through quite a few changes, many of which we all wish we could avoid. Well, there is actually a “fountain of youth” that many people 65 and older take advantage of to slow down the aging process and feel better well into their eighties and nineties. It’s called “exercise.”
Everything about aging makes you want to slow down and do less physically. You don’t recover from strenuous activity as quickly as you did when you were younger. Your strength gradually diminishes over time. Your sense of balance isn’t as sharp. And you feel fatigued and get winded more easily. All of these changes in your body can make you want to avoid strenuous physical activity. However, if you can resist that urge to plop yourself down on the couch and watch TV, and instead start a structured exercise program, you can maintain your independence longer and continue to do the kinds of activities that make your life enjoyable and fulfilling.
How Physical Activity Affects the Body
The benefits of exercise, regardless of age, are well known. As you age, though, it becomes more important because physical exercise has the ability to compensate for things that your body no longer does on its own. By staying active, you can maintain your vitality longer, allowing you to continue doing the things you enjoy. Plus, exercise provides many additional benefits, such as:
- Controlling blood pressure
- Preventing weight gain
- Maintaining safe cholesterol levels
- Reducing the risk of hardened arteries
- Lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke
- Strengthening your muscles, tendons and ligaments
- Keeping bones strong, which lowers the risk of osteoporosis
- Maintaining balance
Recent studies have also linked physical exercise with maintaining brain health, cognitive function and memory among older adults.
If you’ve been inactive for a long period of time, the thought of exercising may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the worst thing you can do is immediately push yourself too hard from the beginning. Starting too fast can result in you getting discouraged with the outcome, as well as increasing the possibility of getting hurt. Instead, start slowly and make a commitment to building up to a more strenuous regimen.
Start by simply walking for ten minutes at a pace that’s comfortable for you, then build up to a 30-minute walk once a day. Over time, your goal is to be on a regular exercise routine that focuses on four key areas: aerobic health, strength, balance and flexibility. It may take a little time to get there, but ultimately the benefits are worth the effort. Be on the lookout for part two of this blog where I will discuss specific ways you can work on these four areas.
Contact us to make an appointment and talk to your doctor to let him or her know what your plans are. If you have certain conditions, your doctor might want you to modify your exercise routine to keep you safe and healthy.