By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer
So, this is a BIG year for me. I am hitting a milestone age, the big 50. Yikes…! As much as I am proud of how I look and how I’ve aged, I can still see the effects of aging on my body.
As you age, you lose muscle and bone mass and may develop problems in your muscles, joints and bones, such as back pain, osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. Regular exercise slows the loss of muscle mass, strengthens bones and reduces joint and muscle pain. In addition, mobility and balance are improved, which reduces the risk of falling and suffering a serious injury, such as a hip fracture.
Scientists used to think that strenuous exercise was the only way to improve your health. However, new research suggests that just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk or washing your car, provides most of the health benefits from exercise. The activity doesn’t have to be too vigorous. In fact, moderate intensity is best, but even low-intensity activity is better than nothing. While some people may enjoy participating in a regularly scheduled exercise class, others may find it easier to just increase their daily activities.
The key is to find something that you enjoy doing and do it regularly.
• Go for a brisk walk
• Work in the yard
• Go for a bike ride
• Walk the fairways when you golf
• Wash and wax your car
• Play tennis
• Go for a horse back ride
It’s never too late to start. physical activity is especially important for older adults, and can help them live independently for as long as possible. A study of frail, wheelchair-bound nursing home residents in their 80’s and 90’s who participated in a weight lifting program showed marked improvement in their strength and overall functional ability. Staying active also lowers your risk of heart disease or heart attack, lowers blood pressure, controls diabetes and helps you maintain a healthy weight level.
Many folks are afraid to exercise due to a chronic medical condition. These folks feel exercise can make their condition worse. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
If you have a chronic condition affecting your muscles, joints or bones, lack of physical activity can make the condition worse, or at least make it more difficult to live with. Medical research shows that physical activity is both safe and beneficial for people with arthritis, osteoporosis and other chronic conditions of bones and joints.
You shouldn’t exercise during an acute bout of back pain, but by strengthening the muscles of your stomach, hips and thighs, you can relieve chronic back pain and prevent your condition from getting worse. A balanced fitness program of regular physical activity and specific strengthening exercises is ideal.
Stimulating bone growth and preventing bone loss through exercise should be part of your lifestyle because once you stop, the benefits begin to diminish in as little as two weeks and disappear in two to eight months. Your doctor can help with a total plan for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, including calcium, medications and hormone replacement for older women.
You can expect to experience some muscle soreness when you start exercising, but it will disappear as you exercise regularly. Start out slowly. If one activity hurts too much, switch to something else. Of course, stop what you’re doing if you experience severe pain or swelling.