If your goal is to retain your physical and mental health as you age, you must know that physical activity is an important component in reaching your goal. In fact, while it is important to be active when you are young, it is critical when you are older. If you haven’t been meeting your fitness goals, it is never too late to get started. Even frail seniors of advanced age can become stronger, more agile, and even improve their cognitive functioning, with the right exercise.
One of the most acute problems of aging is loss of bone mass. As you get older, existing bone is absorbed by your body, and new bone must be generated to replace it. If you have osteoporosis, the formation of new bone falls behind the rate of bone loss, causing weak, thinning and brittle bones. A thinning hipbone poses the risk of serious complications. Of elderly people who fall and break a hip, one in four will die as a direct result.
There are two types of exercise you need in your arsenal against aging.
The first is weight bearing exercise, like resistance or strength training. Weight bearing exercise can actually help reverse damage to your skeletal structure, and it has the additional benefit of helping you avoid age-related dementia. It also leads to better sleep, a lower risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and cancer – and it will improve your general mood and outlook.
Experts recommend you do weight bearing exercise at least twice a week.
The second weapon in your arsenal is aerobic exercise. To keep your body and mind in good shape as you age, you need at least 2.5 hours every week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 1.4 hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Here are a few suggestions for meeting these guidelines:
1. Walk briskly for 30 minutes on five days (moderate intensity); exercise with resistance bands on two days (muscle strengthening).
2. Walk briskly for 30 minutes on two days (moderate); dance for an hour one evening (moderate); mow the lawn for 30 minutes (moderate); do heavy gardening two days (muscle strengthening).
3. Do 30 minutes of an aerobic dance class (vigorous); do 30 minutes of running one day (vigorous); take a brisk walk for 30 minutes on one day (moderate); do calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups) on three days.
4. Bike to and from work for 30 minutes on three days (moderate); play softball for 60 minutes on one day (moderate); use weight machines on two days.
4. Play doubles tennis for 45 minutes on two days (moderate); lift weights on one day; hike vigorously for 30 minutes and go rock climbing on one day (muscle strengthening).
As you can see, there is plenty of variety available. To keep yourself motivated, design your own exercise routine and make it fun. Just be sure it includes both weight bearing and aerobic types of exercise.