Seniors Should Focus on Active Lifestyles

From the Sept. 24 edition of The Lancaster News

People of all ages must stay in great physical health in order to promote longevity.

As a society, we are all watching our senior citizens invest in their health and exercise. I’m constantly amazed by their level of commitment when it comes to staying fit.

They number among my favorite age groups and it’s an inspiration and motivation just to watch their older and very wise ways.

Just about every day, I see my next door neighbor, Bill Hegler, head to his morning workout at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster’s Gregory Health and Wellness Center.

His movement may be a little slow, but it’s steady as he makes his way to his car. That’s commitment. I have seen my grandmother, Louise Reed, who is 79, do yard work and attend to several grandchildren and great-grandkids all in a day just to have a full course meal ready at dinner.

I can still remember my great-grandmother, the late Sarah J. Reed, who we all called “Mother.” Before passing at age 97, she was one of the most active women I knew. I can recall at age 95, Mother would go out on a hot summer day and cut the grass with her push lawn mower.

She kept it up until my grandfather and uncles were forced to chain the lawn mower to a tree. They didn’t do it to limit her activity, but because of the blistering heat. They were more worried about her having a heat stroke or some other illness due to the temperatures.

My great-grandfather, the late Anderson Peay, was very active and lived to the age of 104.

Although he lost his eyesight at about age 80, he never stopped moving and being active. My grandfather, Robert Reed, now 84 is retired, but still stays active daily, whether it’s on top of a roof or somewhere digging a ditch.

They share a common thread, having remained very active past the age of 65.

Their daily lives include, or included, activity with some form of basic movement.

It is amazing to see how that added or still adds to their quality of life and longevity. We see people like this around us everyday and it’s hard not to be inspired by their example and dedication.

Senior citizen’s secret

As a fitness expert, I firmly believe the secret to this is movement. It is that simple.

Staying active keeps them at a lower risk of disease and other aliments that occur as we age. Science and research prove that exercise (movement) can improve the longevity of life.

Studies show that including an exercise program to your daily regimen can help increase your lifespan by up to 10 years, given that nothing prematurely happens.

The opportunity to spend an additional decade here with your family and loved ones is an awesome gift of life.

Facts about aging

When it comes to the physiological components related to aging, these factors always hold true:

  • As we age our metabolism slows.
  • Our nervous system is not as efficient which results in slower responses and reflexes
  • Our skin starts to lose its protein (collagen elastin), causing wrinkles
  • The calcium levels in our bones gradually decreases, leading to a higher risk to have fractures
  • Muscle atrophy (a decrease in muscle mass) can be as great as 50 percent by age of 80.

Throughout the years, I have worked with a wide population range, including senior citizens. I can say from experience is that age is not always the overriding factor that determines a client’s ability to meet health and wellness goals.

Some clients ages 65 years and older actually have more advanced body biomechanics and exercise movements than some of my 35 year old clients.

A great movement assessment report allows me to train them on a much more advanced program. To you, this may be pretty impressive but I see it all the time.

It’s amazing to see how the human body can perform, regardless of age.

Exercise counters aging

Proper exercise and stretching are the keys and secrets behind the success of many senior citizens who can perform at a higher level. If you continue to properly train the Kinetic chain (nervous, skeletal and muscular systems), you can continue to maintain lean quality muscle. You can also maintain muscular efficiency (reflexes and muscle response).

Skin elasticity and quality are much-debated topics depending on readings and research. Some studies indicate that exercise alone help with the anti-aging of the skin on a molecular level (a person’s skin appears to look younger). As calcium levels decrease in your bones, you are more vulnerable to develop osteoporosis. If you include a resistance training program with your lifestyle, this can greatly reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. What happens to muscle is a natural life cycle process, too. However, a little “preventative maintenance” can help. You can maintain as much quality muscle as possible by adding a form of resistance training to your exercise program. For every scientific factor, there is a counter natural homeopathic way to maintain your strength and beauty. This, in turn, allows you to age gracefully and enjoy the longevities and benefits from exercise and fitness.

Expert exercise tips for senior citizens

Before working out or beginning an exercise program, senior citizens should consider these factors:

    • Know the possible side effects of the medications you are taking and how it plays into any fitness program you choose. Don’t forget to take your medical history into consideration, too.
    • Get a physical assessment from your family doctor or health care/fitness professional. This assessment should include evaluations of your cardiovascular system and your gait/walk. Balance and coordination can become impaired as we age.
    • The next important thing is movement. How mobile the client/patient determines the starting level and intensity of a program.
    • Set long term and short term goals.
    • Make yourself accountable. Join a club that offers special classes for senior citizens or team up with a friend. The buddy system is very effective.
    • Understand the benefits from the exercises that you are doing and the positive effects that it has on your health. This will help keep you motivated and focused.
    • Start a step program with a goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Start out with 300 and build each week
    • Start a fitness support

group in your community or amongst church friends.

  • Remember to continue to progress safely to challenge your body, mind and spirit.
  • Create a log sheet or journal of your progression and challenges.
  • Include balance, strength, flexibility, and core training in your exercise programs.
  • Remember to include a solid nutritional program
  • When it comes to your health, quality always outweighs quantity. Invest in the books, literature and exercise equipment or retain a certified personal trainer to help you effectively and safely achieve your goals.
  • Your health is an investment. Your return on investment (ROI) equals a longer life which is a far more important family value in today’s society. These are some of the things you need to aim for even if you choose not to exercise.

Try to increase your activity by simply moving more. Take a daily walk through the neighborhood. For those of us who may suffer from joint dysfunction, I would recommend activity or even exercises that do not require much weight bearing on the joints. Water aerobics is excellent for this or even swimming several laps in the pool.

Include a daily stretching regimen, too. Stretching alone can help improve poor circulation in the muscles and joints.

The goal is to have full range of motion throughout each exercise movement. However, if you’re not able to do this another method can be used. Partial Range of Motion Training (PRM) is used in advanced specific training programs but also can be used for this purpose. Basically every exercise has a partial movement working through half the range of motion.

Above all, keep moving. One of the keys to senior citizen’s success in longevity and quality of life is movement. You can make a significant difference in your health by increasing your daily activity. Until next time train hard and eat healthy!

– Fitness expert and bodybuilder Kennett Washington is president of Healing Strength Personal Training.