Exercising and aging
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Exercising Provides a Foundation for Aging Well

October 2, 2020   |   By Jacqui Monahan

Exercise isn’t just good for short-term fitness, heart health and weight loss, it has many long-term health benefits. Peer-reviewed studies have confirmed that regular exercise leads to longer life expectancy, lower inflammation and even maintaining our DNA.

The Mayo Clinic suggests 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week to get our hearts pumping and our bodies in shape. The best way to achieve this is by spacing out the activity throughout the week.

Strength training is also important and should be done twice a week for all major muscle groups.

Aging and exercise

Studies have found that starting to exercise regularly at a young age and continuing into adulthood is one of the best things anyone can do in terms of preventative medicine. If exercise is a regular habit, muscle mass will remain high into older adulthood. That makes falls less common and easier to recover from if they do occur.

Regular exercise improves the immune system. When people get older, their immune systems tend to get weaker compared with when they were younger. Older adults are more likely to contract a disease and more likely to have bad health outcomes from it. Nutrition and regular exercise bolster immune response so that adults are less susceptible to disease.

Genomic instability also becomes an issue as people age. The cells in older adults cannot replicate and repair as well. This can lead to genetic mutations that cause a host of problems, including increased risk of cancer. Exercise has been shown to increase genomic stability and make it easier for cells to replicate and repair.

And there are many other benefits of exercise as people age. Exercise keeps one feeling young and healthy. It strengthens the heart and lungs. It encourages blood flow throughout the body. And it keeps cortisol levels low which means lower levels of stress.

Even though it’s harder now than ever to get outside and stay active, older adults still can get the regular exercise their bodies need.

The important thing to remember is to stay active, whatever that means to you. Try to avoid overdoing it and just find what is comfortable for you.

Here are a few tips and tricks that health experts have offered for exercise while we’re all social distancing.

Focus on aerobic conditioning. This can be as simple as walking inside or outside. Go for a walk after dinner. If the weather or social distancing doesn’t allow, walk a hallway or around the room while listening to the radio or talking on the phone.

Strength training can be done with any household item or with none at all. Many exercises use a person’s own body weight for strengthening and require very little space. See some online at bit.ly/GFstrength.

You could also lift cans or other heavy items such as partially filled milk cartons.

The National Institute on Aging provides exercise resources online at bit.ly/GFnihNIA.

And the YMCA has many fitness videos for aging adults that include yoga, cardio, strength training and more at bit.ly/GFymca.