Recent research has demonstrated that men and women, over the age of 60, respond to both aerobic and strength-training exercise with greater increases in fitness, strength, functional status and glucose tolerance than any other group of younger men and women. In the past, age was believed to be the cause of a number of changes in body composition. The thought was that age related reductions in muscle mass and increases in body-fat accumulation were the direct cause of decrease in muscle strength. The main question that researchers need to ask is: To what extent are these changes inevitable consequences of aging?
To the surprise of many, research has found that changes in body composition and aerobic capacity that were once thought to be associated with increasing age may not be age-related at all.
A study of older men who were endurance trained led researchers to learn that body fat accumulations and maximal aerobic capacity were not related to age but rather to the total number of hours these men were exercising per week. Many researchers have been able to prove that it is the level of activity rather than age that causes decreases in energy and increases in body fat.
With that in mind, it is never too late to begin an exercise program. If you are leading or have led a “couch potato” lifestyle since retirement now is the time to get moving. Start now! Activate your lifestyle by becoming more physically active. The benefits of a robust lifestyle are numerous
- Lower blood pressure
- Stop the weight gain
- Decrease your body fat stores
- Prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes
- Reduce mortality and increase life expectancy
- Assists with stress management
- Best of all, it makes you feel proud of what you can do with your increased energy
A few other benefits you can monitor are a boost of your “good cholesterol,” and yes, exercise will help to lower the “bad cholesterol.” If you have already had a heart attack, regular physical activity can help prevent you from having another. Remember that being physically inactive can be just as dangerous as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
First things first, consult your physician before starting an exercise program. When you’ve received the clearance to begin, keep in mind that it is always essential to do a proper warm-up and some stretching. Both have a greater effect in reducing the risk of an orthopedic injury. A 5-minute warm-up, followed by 5 to 10 minutes of slow stretching is highly recommended.
Any physical activity that gets you moving is great. Try 30 minutes of brisk walking every day. This walk can lower your risk of heart disease, increase muscle mass and energy levels. Set realistic goals for yourself and choose activities you enjoy. Don’t save vigorous activity just for the weekend. Do something every day.
It has been proven that men and women in the senior age group who participate in regular aerobic and strength training exercise have increased fitness levels associated with a long and healthy life.
Muscle strength training can be accomplished by virtually anyone, including seniors. Muscle strength training has been proven over and over as the most important factor in the prevention of muscle wasting and has become a critical component of most cardiac rehabilitation programs.
Now that you’ve finished your warm-up, stretching and exercise, it is time to cool down. Cooling down after exercising is important for everyone, but particularly for the Silver Sneakers. Never finish your workout by jumping into a hot shower. End your exercise session with a slow walk and more stretching. Your post-exercise stretching will be more effective than the stretching you did before the exercise. This is because your muscles have warmed up and are more elastic.
Find a friend whose company you enjoy and invite them to be a partner in your quest for fitness. Get committed to a gym or an exercise support group. Many of these gyms devote classes just for seniors. The more people you exercise with, the more likely you are to stay with your program. And, if you fall off the exercise wagon, get right back on. Exercise is like an old friend who loves you no matter how long you’ve been away. Keep coming back, like the saying goes “it works when you work it out.”
There is no other group in our society that can benefit more from regular exercise than the Silver Sneakers. While both aerobic and strength conditioning are highly recommended, only strength training can actually stop or reverse muscle wasting. Increased muscle strength and muscle mass in Silver Sneakers can be the first step towards a lifetime of increased physical activity, a means for maintaining all body function, and a long life of independence. What’s not to like!