Exercise helps fight chronic disease and the effects of aging

No matter your age, maintaining health is essential to ensuring our bodies remain in good condition to sustain us through life’s changes. As we age, changes in the body are natural and inevitable. As the body’s cells age, they begin to lose the ability to function as well as in younger years. Aging or dying cells impact how well the body’s organs can perform. For example, body parts like bones and joints may weaken or become worn out, making mobility difficult. The heart may pump less efficiently or blood vessels may become less flexible and start to narrow, which can lead to shortness of breath or loss of energy. Weakened body parts can also impact other systems in the body or lead to a chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. However, commitment to regular exercise in our lives can prevent or delay organ damage and the onset of chronic disease.

In addition to maintaining health, consistent physical activity can help older adults stay strong and capable of doing daily activities like personal care, household chores, and cooking. These everyday activities are crucial to maintaining independence longer in life. Even the addition of a small amount of exercise can promote increased heart health, muscle strength, and improved mobility. However, before beginning any exercise program, it is recommend that adults consult a qualified physician.

How much?   

For adults age 65 and older that are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend two types of exercise. The CDC’s guidelines call for seniors to regularly partake in aerobic and muscle strengthening activities. Aerobic exercise, also called cardio, works to strengthen the cardiovascular system and the lungs. It can include a number of activities such as walking and bicycling to dancing and mowing the lawn. Muscle-strengthening exercises help maintain and build muscle. These repetitive movements help older people not lose muscle tone and strength as they age. This type of exercise includes lifting weights, yoga, working with resistance bands, push-ups, and digging in the garden.

The CDC’s guidelines give older people the option of modifying the amounts and intensity of their weekly exercise recommendations. The agency suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week combined with two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups. A second option recommends 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity aerobic activity such as running combined with two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups. For older adults that would like to vary the intensity of their routine, the CDC suggests an equal mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activities for at least 150 minutes a week  with two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups.

Individual fitness levels and personal schedules vary, however; there is room to fit some type of exercise into almost any day. Even 10 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity a day can be of some benefit. If you have mobility issues or are recovering from a medical setback such as a knee replacement, stroke, or heart attack, physical activity is an important part of your continued recovery. Working with therapists, like the ones at Rehab First, can help you find out what type of exercise will benefit you most and what you can do to maintain your fitness and health after you leave rehabilitation. For more information about exercise programs that promote fitness for older people, click here.

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