“Use It or Lose It” Exercise is Important for Seniors as We Age
“If all the benefits of exercise could be placed in a single pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world.”
This powerful phrase is testament to the increasing volume of scientific evidence that supports the overwhelming medicinal benefits of exercise for people of all ages but particularly for older adults who face an increasing chance of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders as they age.
Older folk are also very likely to be faced with joint movement restrictions – due to the wear and tear of 70 plus years of living on this earth. Let’s face it, not many people over the age of 60 get away completely with arthritis free joints!
There’s also a good chance as an older adult reading this, that you may have (or know of someone who has) experienced a fall and as a result sustained a joint, bone or muscular injury.
Falls can have devastating consequences both psychologically and physically. So preventing them is absolutely key to maintaining independence and continuing to do the activities and pastimes that you enjoy with confidence.
Activities for older adults
Walking, swimming and cycling are all excellent aerobic activities but so too are more specific exercises or movements that target the muscle groups that help you recover your balance if you need to.
Why is power training important?
One of the key concepts to appreciate is power training. Although most of us don’t need the stamina or endurance younger athletes do when playing their sport, when it comes to power training older adults and younger athletes actually have a lot in common.
We’ve always been aware that aging brings with it a decline in muscle mass and strength. But what is now clear is that power also declines – at a rate of up to three times faster than strength – after the age of 60.
Having more power allows an athlete to move faster and more explosively and it therefore follows that muscles becoming less powerful will compromise movements requiring you to move your body at speed against gravity.
For an older person this applies to many normal daily activities. Some examples being:
- Braking quickly when driving
- Stepping back to regain your balance if you stumble
- Lifting loads from a low level to high or vice versa
- Getting in and out of chairs, sofas and cars (especially if the seat is low)
- Climbing stairs and negotiating uneven ground and curbs
The number one exercise for older adults
One of the best exercises any older adult can do is the simple sit to stand from a chair or bench. For maximum benefit stand up “fast” and sit down “slow”. The less you use your hands to help you the better. In fact if you are able to try cross them over your chest or to make it even tougher hold them straight in front of you at shoulder height. Try doing 6 to 10 of these ‘sit to stands’ two or three times a day.
Exercising for a better brain
The link between physical exercise and physical functionality is obvious but the extra good news is that there are also clear links between exercise and brain health. In fact using our muscles may be the best tools we have to slow the cognitive decline that occurs with ageing.
Exercise triggers an increase in the protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. It is a bit of a mouthful! But think of this protein as ‘miracle-gro’ fertiliser which encourages the growth of new brain cells.
Yet another good reason to get a dose of exercise into your day!
Super Senior Exercise Programme
The Super Senior Programme is a programme that can be done in the comfort of your own home. It involves six simple exercises that address the areas of functional fitness discussed in this article that are particularly important to older adults; namely power, balance and mobility.
It is available for purchase online and comes with an easy-to-use stretchy band with handles (which is kind to arthritic hands) and user guides on how to follow the programme.
Taking around 20-30 minutes to complete, older adults will see improvements if they are able to follow the programme 2-3 times a week.
Click here for more information on the programme including a short video