“If exercise could be packaged into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”
Robert N. Butler, M.D.Former Director of The National Institute on Aging
National Institute on Aging (NIA) indicates that an inactive lifestyle can cause older people to lose ground in four areas important for staying healthy and independent: strength, balance, flexibility, endurance
According to a study performed by NIA for people age 75 and older:
- 40% cannot walk two blocks
- 32% cannot climb ten steps
- 22% cannot lift ten pounds
- 7% cannot walk across a small room
- 50% of those who fracture hips never walk independently again, with many dying from complications
The Many Benefits of Exercise for the Older Adult
Type 2 Diabetes: decreases incidence; improves glycemic control; decreases hemoglobin levels;improves insulin sensitivity
Osteoporosis: decreases bone density loss in postmenopausal women; decreases hip and vertebral fractures; decreases risk of falling
Sleep and Moods: improves quality of sleep; improves cognitive function; decreases rates of depression, improves Beck depression scores; improves short-term memory
Osteoarthritis: improves function; decreases pain
Cancer: potential decrease in risk of colon, breast, prostate, rectum; improves quality of life and decreases fatigue
Other: decreases all-cause mortality; decreases all-cause morbidity; decreases risk of obesity; improves symptoms in peripheral vascular occlusive disease
Benefits presented in the article “Promoting and Prescribing Exercise for the Elderly,” by Robert J. Nied, M.D., Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan and Barry Franklin, Ph.D., William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
Before starting exercise, older adults and/or adults with chronic conditions should develop an activity plan with a health professional to manage risks and take therapeutic needs into account.
Activities to Improve the 4 Area of Fitness
- Strength: resistance bands, weights, calisthenics, dancing
- Balance: yoga, chair exercises, dancing
- Flexibility: yoga, chair exercises, dancing
- Aerobic Endurance: walking, swimming, water aerobics, low impact aerobics, dancing, rowing
Consult your physician if exercise results in: chest pain, dizziness, cold sweats, extreme breathlessness, very rapid heart rate that lasts longer than 5–10 minutes after stopping activity.
Regardless of where you live, there are exercise programs suitable for all ability levels. Talk to your doctor, activity director, local community center or gym. Check out these online resources for more information.
Exercise doesn’t just improve physical well-being, it also provides energy, lifts our spirits, keeps us sharp, and helps us fully participate in all areas of life. Don’t forget, indoor and outdoor chores count as exercise too. The important thing is to do something on a regular basis. Move it, lift it, stretch it!