American’s are living longer. Average American life expectancy in 1940 was approximately 63 years of age. Today, it is nearing 80 years. With increased longevity, seniors are also desiring an improved quality of life over that extended period of time. So, how is this accomplished?
Exercise is quite important. That’s the conclusion of a report from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial. The trial included more than 1,600 men and women between the ages of 70 and 89. None exercised regularly, and all were relatively frail. Half were randomly assigned to an exercise program that included daily walking plus strength and balance exercises. The other half took part in education workshops on healthy aging that included some gentle stretching routines.
After 2½ years, the volunteers in the exercise group were 28% less likely to have become disabled (defined by the inability to walk about 400 yards without help) compared to those in the education group. They were also 18% less likely to have had any episode of physical disability.
These are important statistics. This shows us that moderate amounts of exercise can produce very big benefits. In fact, it can also reduce ones risk of disability.
Before starting any new exercise program, you should certainly speak with your doctor about what you can and can’t do. Some have conditions that might prohibit them from performing specific types of exercise.
With that said, there are some types of exercise that are often helpful in most situations.
Walking is a good exercise that doesn’t put too much strain on your body. It enables your joints and muscles to move, it can help your heart and lungs, and let’s face it, it can help with reducing stress too.
Begin with slow walks with short distances. This allows your body to adapt to the changes you are asking of it. As time goes on and you feel more comfortable, begin by increasing your walking distance somewhat. For example, maybe you start off by walking one block and now you increase to two or even three blocks of a walk. Always remember to “listen” to you body and speak with your doctor if you are having any problems or have any concerns.
For some, biking is a great exercise. However, it does require balance and some leg strength if you are riding outside. For those who want to ride, but aren’t quite comfortable riding a bike outdoors, there is always the option of an indoor stationary bike. These will allow you to ride to strengthen your legs, heart and lungs.
Stationary bikes can be found in most gyms, fitness centers or you can purchase one for at home.
In addition to movement, strengthening of your muscles is also very important. This can be done through weight lifting. But, this does not necessarily mean heavy weights. It simply means to increase overall muscular strength by lifting weights on a repeated basis.
As you are aging, weight lifting can be much different than when you were younger with more strength ability. Instead, lift lighter weights – only what you can do. Some, may go to a fitness center to use the weight machines that they would have. Others may want to work out at home using resistance bands. Others find it beneficial to perform weight lifting with items from home, like soup cans or milk.
Exercise is a very important way to keep yourself healthy, active and mobile, especially as we age. By performing some routine exercising, you’ll add quality to those years of your life. You’ll find that exercise improves your strength, flexibility, endurance and even your mood.