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Aging and Exercise

Promotion of your personal health via exercise not only prevents physical deterioration, but mental and emotional as well. Whether you are entering into ‘senior’ status, or you are a care-giver, establishment of a daily routine that includes moderate physical activity is vital.


Exercise and promotion of physical activity are extremely important in the self preservation of each and every individual’s health especially as one enters into the ‘elderly’ population. Promotion of your personal health via exercise not only prevents physical deterioration, but mental and emotional as well. Whether you are entering into ‘senior’ status, or you are a care-giver, establishment of a daily routine that includes moderate physical activity is vital.

Regular exercise and physical activity lowers your risk and prevents the development of disabilities and diseases as you grow older. Additionally, daily programs that promote fitness also serve as treatment to many chronic conditions including arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and balance disorders. Researchers reported in 2003 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that ‘women who began walking a mile a day after age 65 were about half as likely to have died of heart disease, cancer, or any cause compared with their sedentary counterparts.’

So what can you do? The most balanced weekly routine that would ultimately promote the healthiest outcome should include a combination of aerobic activity, strength training and flexibility. Fortunately, activities like Tia Chi overlap each of these and can easily be done within the home with a good video that demonstrates multiple levels of exercise competence. Additionally, Tia Chi has been shown to improve balance, flexibility and reduce falls.

But you don’t even need props, weights or videos if you are into other activities at your home. Hoeing, weeding, raking and lifting as you would while tending your yard and garden, or even shoveling your sidewalks and driveway during the winter are great physical tasks that can promote health while reducing boredom. It can deliver aerobic benefits while stressing and strengthening bones and muscles throughout your body.

A wonderful guide to a comprehensive daily exercise and physical activity program is produced by the National Institute on Aging. It easily outlines proper exercises that can benefit everyone at all ages.

Be sure to begin each exercise or activity session with a warm-up that includes some general stretching. Remember that in your youth the body is extremely flexible and elastic in many ways. But overtime, the elastic properties of your tendons and muscles slowly become somewhat plastic and thus more likely to be injured. Your greatest chance at minimizing your risk of injury during exercise is by performing a short warm-up and stretching period.

The American Physical Therapy Association recommends these simple tips for stretches and gentle exercise that may help you maintain your flexibility and strength sustaining your daily routine without injury. 1.Don’t stretch too hard, too fast. You’ll pay for it later with muscle pain. 2.Avoid bouncing. Maintain a gradual gentle pressure when stretching. 5 reps of 10 to 30 seconds in sufficient for most people. 3.Move through a pain-free ROM (range of motion) at a slow and stable speed. 4.Don’t over-do it. Typically 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps are a good start when strengthening. 5.Breath! Exhale when straining, inhale when returning to resting position.

A few general but effective stretches are:

  1. “V” Exercise: Sitting in good posture begin with your arms crossed across your lap and thumbs pointing towards your hips. Then raise your arms up to assume the “V” shape. Hold and repeat again.

  2. Calf Stretch: Standing up straight at the kitchen sink, begin with one leg behind and one forward. Keeping the rear leg straight and locked move your hips forward, bending the front knee while keeping the rear foot flat on the floor. Feel a gentle stretch up the back of the leg.

  3. Forward/Backward Bends: Standing with feet apart and secure balance, slowly lower your hands down along your thighs reaching for the floor. Pause and return to standing erect. Then, with hands on the back of your hips slowly bend backwards a comfortable distance. Pause and then return to standing erect.

A few Strengthening exercises are:

  1. Punches: Holding onto a light weight, or even a can of canned vegetables punch forward alternating arms while sitting or standing in good posture.

  2. Sink Squats: Stand at the kitchen sink and hold on. Place a chair behind you for safety. Squat down touching your rear to the chair and raise back up.

  3. Calf/Toe Raises: Again at the sink, hold on while advancing up onto your toes, and then back onto your heels.

Continue to gradually increase your sets and repetitions of each exercise to increase your endurance.

A couple balance activities are:

  1. Stand on One Foot: Holding onto a sturdy chair for 10 seconds 10 – 15 times on each leg.

  2. Heel-Toe Walk: Walk down your hallway Heel-to-Toe for ~20 Steps. Do this for 5-10 times.

Always remember to warm-up, drink lots of water, dress appropriately if you are outside, check the safety of any equipment you are using, and keep your eyes open and focused on the task you are performing.

If you or someone you know suffers progressive loss of strength, flexibility, endurance or balance you may benefit from a safely monitored and comprehensive rehabilitation program. Consult with your Physician first to see if a rehabilitation program is necessary or if you could benefit self guided independent routine. It is ill-advised to begin any physical training program without the approval of you physician.

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Tips from the Experts

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