As we become older balance, strength and flexibility play an even more important of our life. Without them independence is limited or lost. While it is never too late to begin an exercise program, the sooner the better. The ageing process begins younger in life than many think. Once adults pass physical prime in their twenties, they lose lean body mass every year. This is mostly in the form of muscle & bone. Since most people gain almost two pounds of body fat per year, the few ounces of lean tissue lost is not noticed on the scales. Few people notice this process until they find it difficult to get off the sofa or to climb stairs. This gradual loss of muscle and bone is the main reason aging adults eventually have difficulty performing the tasks of daily living and eventually lose independence. This process is not an inevitable consequence of aging but a consequence of disuse. The old “use it or lose it” philosophy.
The baby boomers are now 47 to 64 years of age. Many being the most youthful group of seniors or near seniors ever. Some say sixty is the new 40 and fifty is the new 30. For many of my generation we are that, but I also see many of my peers living the life of an elderly person. Being a boomer shouldn’t equal being elderly– especially since I’m a boomer myself at age 59. Life shouldn’t be one health disaster after another and many conditions could be prevented or at least better managed. Quality of life, the ease and enjoyment of living, isn’t that something we all want?
The average boomer has at least one chronic health condition that could be improved or managed with exercise. Let’s move on to those who are 64 and beyond. Many people in this age group are experiencing chronic pain. Their doctors are recommending lifestyle changes, promoting better eating combined with moderate physical activity.
Regular exercise can give relief in the fight against chronic pain and can:
1. Prompt the body to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers and help alleviate anxiety and depression.
2. Builds strength—and the stronger the muscles & bone density, the less of a load on the joints.
3. Increase flexibility, increasing range of motion, that can help relieve aches & pains.
4. Improve sleep quality, giving the body better rest
5. Boost energy, giving a person more energy to cope with chronic pain.
6. Help maintain a healthy weight, which results in less stress on the joints
7. Improve mood & contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
The dramatic improvements in flexibility, strength and endurance are remarkable in most senior citizens. It seems that the more inactive or de-conditioned a person is the more dramatic are the improvements. Many times common back, knee or shoulder issues are improved through a balanced exercise program that addresses each participant as an individual. This takes into account the many differences in each person.
Community group exercise programs are readily available for little or no cost and are a wonderful way to get exercise but do not look at individual special needs. A better option for the inactive boomer or senior might be a guided program with a certified personal trainer specializing in special needs of the aging. Many of our area physical therapy offices, hospitals and gyms offer these types programs. The knowledge gained could then be supplemented or replaced by a group strength and balance program. While aerobics or walking might be a good, free and available way to exercise, many seniors find that difficult to do due to knee, hip or back issues. However that same individual may be able to sit on recline bike with back support or sit and do stair climbing on a seated machine, progressing to other activities. Giving themselves the ability to strengthen muscles and improve ability to actually climb stairs or go for a walk with less discomfort. Improving lower body strength is the single most modifiable risk factor for fall prevention because of the resulting improvement in balance. Upper body strengthening is equally important and can play a huge part in headaches, shoulder/back discomfort and more. Just a little fine tuning can produce amazing results.
Those are just some of the aspects of how exercise can improve the quality of your life. Strength, flexibility, balance and energy are huge factors in determining your independence and quality of life.