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Exercise and the Older Adult

Consistent exercise for seniors is the key to happy and healthy aging.

As you grow older, regular exercise and leading an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever—especially if you are over 50.

Exercise and strength training helps you look and feel younger and stay active longer. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia, several types of cancers, high blood pressure, and obesity. It also can help you reduce stress and tension and aids in weight-loss.

Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for the elderly and constant inactivity often causes seniors to lose the ability to do things on their own such as showering, bathing, errands and cooking. A daily life filled with little movement can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits and a lesser quality of life.

Exercise is just as important for your mental health as it is for your physical health. It increases serotonin (the feel-good endorphins), improves memory and ability to concentrate. Best of all—it just makes you feel and look good.

When choosing an exercise routine, try to select one that includes strength, stretching, endurance and balance exercises. You may not be able to find all four of these in one sport or class, but as long as you incorporate all four disciplines in your weekly schedule, you will be on your way to a healthy and balanced body.

Balance exercises such as Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates can help you stay independent by strengthening your core. A strong core provides a good foundation and reduces your chance of disabilities related to falls.

Strength exercises, such as lifting weights helps tone and build muscle, increases your metabolism which in turn helps to keep your weight and blood sugar in check.

Stretching exercises can give you more freedom of movement, which will allow you to be more active during your senior years. A simple stretch class will help you lengthen your muscles and tendons allowing for a broader range of motion.

Endurance exercises, like running, swimming, aerobics, dance and swimming will increase your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular fitness or heart health.

in Cupertino has fitness classes that are attended regularly by Cupertino residents.

“We don’t have a specific class for seniors only, but we do have several classes which are low-impact and frequented by older adults—Pilates, Yoga and Zumba are all very popular among the senior community,” said Britney, 24-Hour Fitness employee. “Whatever they are able to handle and are interested in, we encourage them to try. We don’t discriminate towards anyone.”

It wouldn’t be a complete article if I didn’t mention the (it has such wonderful programs for seniors) because they too have many fitness classes to choose from—Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Active Stretching and more.

Maybe you are not a member of a gym and have no interest in joining one—well how about exercising at home? Just walk into your local Target or sporting good store and you will find quite an assortment of fitness videos you can pop into your VCR or DVD player. Or, take it to the streets and go for a power walk.

It’s important to exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day most days of the week. And remember, this does not mean that you have to engage in an intense aerobics class every day. Any movement is better than nothing. Plus, it’s a great social outlet which almost always provides an opportunity to meet new people.

Ron Miller August 18, 2011 at 02:08 AM
Arecelly Clouse is right on the mark about the benefits of exercise upon mental and physical health -- especially of seniors. At the Northwest YMCA in Cupertino, several classes are offered within the Active Older Adults program which are designed to help achieve just these goals. Stop by and pick up a brochure and ask to chat with a member of the staff about these offerings. Contact Ron Miller, Active Older Adult Fitness Specialist, rmiller@ymcasv.org, or leave a message at the AOA Hotline 408-351-2439.

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