Age is never an excuse to not exercise

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Too old to exercise? Never!

“The only thing your age tells me is how many trips you’ve taken around the sun.”

It’s a phrase I use often, especially because many people I work with like to use age as a reason not to do something instead of a reason to pursue new challenges.

One of the many benefits I have in my job is working with adults older than 65. I see them on the treadmill in the wellness center, swimming laps in the pool, stepping out of their comfort zone and attending a group exercise class and achieving goals they could have never dreamed about in their 40s.

One of my favorite experiences was watching a 93-year-old man going through his weight routine only to be met at the end by a couple of guys in their mid-30s. They shared a rich conversation about life, longevity and how exercise improves overall quality of life.

As we wrap up Older American Month this May, here are some things you may not know about older-adult fitness. According to this month’s IDEA Fitness Journal:

• Moderate cardiovascular and strength training programs enhance cognitive function in people aged 65 and older.

• Structured exercise training has a positive impact on frail older adults.

• Physical activity helps seniors build self-esteen.

• Power training helps adults (mean age 70) improve their ability to perform activities of daily living.

• Regular exercise improves blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, lipid profile, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and overall morbidity and mortality.

So what is regular exercise?

The surgeon general recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This can include walking, dancing, swimming, gardening, bicycling, golf or a host of other activities that get you moving. If 30 minutes of continuous activity seems too much at first, break up the time into increments of 10 minutes. Taking three 10-minute walks a day adds up to 30 minutes. It counts!

Other important elements to work on as we age are balance, joint mobility and proprioception — understanding where your body is in space in relationship to the things around you.

Simple exercises to increase balance might include standing on one foot while brushing your teeth or standing with your eyes closed.

You can also work with a trainer or attend a TRX group suspension class designed for mobility and balance. Try a yoga class or check out the activities at your church, local senior center or social club.

The most important thing is to get moving and stay moving.

We’re all getting older. In 2030, the older-adult population will be twice as large as it was in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million. That’s a lot of people and that’s a lot of trips around the sun.

If you’re like me, I don’t really like the thought of aging. In fact I lie so much about my age that when I have to tell the truth I have to stop and think about it.

Let’s not let age define us or be the reason we stop living and enjoying life. Instead, let’s allow it to be the reason we start living and moving intentionally.

Leslie Snyder, group exercise director at the Walla Walla YMCA, holds certifications with the American Council on Exercise in group fitness, personal training and as a health coach. She can be reached at lsnyder@wwymca.org.

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