Exercise and Aging

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Exercise and Aging

By Amy Blanford, PT, DPT and Clinic Manager at ApexNetwork PT in Beardstown, IL

So how are the Golden Years treating you? Many people say that their golden years don’t feel all that “golden.” So what can you do to help keep that shine of youth as you age? We can’t stop time but the right amount of physical activity can help maintain strength, flexibility and energy levels as well as help prevent falls.

According to a survey performed by the American Physical Therapy Association, the majority of Americans plan to live independently into their 80’s but also expect to lose strength and flexibility over time. If you have started to notice some decline in function, it’s not too late! Research shows that with an appropriate exercise program, it’s possible to gain strength and improve physical function in your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

So what’s a person to do? Stay active and participate in regular exercise. An exercise program should include both aerobic activities like walking, swimming or dancing and resistive exercises using resistance bands, hand weights or weight machines. The right amount of resistance for your body can be a little tricky to determine. This may require the assistance of a physical therapist to get you started on an appropriate program.

Remember that regular exercise is a commitment in time and energy but it pays off in the long run. Exercise can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It helps maintain bone density to prevent or reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Research has even shown that people who stay active are less likely to develop memory problems or Alzheimer’s. To stay committed to your exercise program, choose things that you enjoy doing and find a friend to keep you accountable.

It’s critical as you get started with a program to make exercise a regular part of the daily routine. Keep in mind that it’s better to start slow and not overdo. Going slow prevents muscle soreness and makes it easier to be consistent. As our bodies age, they are slower to adapt to change in activity levels. This means that long warm up and cool down periods (5-10 minutes) are important. Warm up and cool down should include stretching as tendons and ligaments tend to be stiffer and take longer to be ready for exercise. Stretches need to be held for a long, slow stretch of 60 seconds each for best results.

If your Golden years are feeling a bit tarnished, try some exercise to help shine things up for the future. If you have questions or need help getting started, ask your physician to refer to you ApexNetwork Physical Therapy and let our therapists get you on the right track.