Exercise in a Older Person

Exercise is a planned or structured physical activity intended to keep a person fit and healthy.

They say exercise is the “best buy in public health”. Due to our physiology it is good to exercise when we are young, important to exercise in our forties and fifties and mandatory to exercise in our sixties. By sixty our hormones decrease especially growth hormone which causes muscle and bone atrophy leading to the syndrome of the “frail elderly”. Exercise, especially the right exercise can reverse this process.

Benefits of Exercise in an older person

  • Reduces risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Reduces risk of obesity and diabetes.
  • Keeps joints, tendons and ligaments flexible.
  • Delays osteoarthritis.
  • Reduces some of the effects of aging.
  • Contributes to mental wellbeing and helps treat depression.
  • Helps relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Increases your energy and endurance.
  • You sleep more soundly.
  • Keeps your prostate healthy.
  • Eases the symptoms of menopause.
  • Lowers your cholesterol.
  • Lowers your resting heart rate.
  • Calms your mind and improves your breathing
  • Eases the pain of varicose veins.
  • Build up bone density.

The benefits of exercise are many and the above are just some of them. The important thing is to get started.

Getting Started

Make a decision. Decide that exercise is important for you.
If you are busy start by sneaking exercise into your day.
Tips to get into the habit of making exercise a part of your daily routine.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Go for a walk during your coffee break or lunch or if you are retired take the grandchildren for a walk or get involved in a charity or social work that needs some physical activity.
  • Do housework at a fast pace.
  • Rake leaves or do other yards work.
Types of exercise

There are three main types of exercise that an older person must incorporate into his regime.

  1. Aerobic.
  2. Flexibility and
  3. Resistance and Strength training

Aerobic – Aerobic exercise is any repetitive exercise or activity that you do long and hard enough to challenge your heart and lungs. Examples include walking, jogging, cycling and swimming. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, you can start slowly and increase gradually as you become used to it. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it’s easy, safe and cheap. Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but is less likely than running and jogging to cause injuries.

Flexibility or stretching exercises – Stretching is the key to maintaining your flexibility. It is how far and how easily you can move your joints. As you get older, your tendons begin to shorten, and thus restricting your flexibility. Your movement becomes slower and less fluid. Flexibility is one of the keys to good posture. Stretching helps in reducing pain and discomfort in your body.

Resistance and Strength training – Is strength training necessary as we get older? The answer is yes and it is actually very important. Studies have shown that older persons started on a strength training program are stronger, have better bone and muscle bulk and strength, suffer less falls and age better. We now know that this is because of increased growth hormone levels. Against gravity exercises are known to stimulate the pituitary gland to release growth hormone, the hormone of youth. The key is to start slowly and increase gradually. If you can get some coaching from a trained physical instructor in the beginning even better.

However if you have not exercised before you need to get a physical assessment by a doctor before you start on any program.

How do you stick with an exercise program? Choose something you like to do. Make sure it suits you physically too. Get a partner. Exercising with someone else can make it more fun. Vary your routine. Choose a comfortable time of the day.

Exercise is an important part of preventive health care.