Wait, don’t turn the page just because you see the “E” word. Study after study shows similar results: if you want to slow the aging process, you need to exercise. In a study of nearly ten thousand men ages 20 to 82 who were followed for about five years, for example, researchers found that physically unfit men who subsequently got in shape had a 44 percent lower death rate than those men who remained inactive.
Do you think you’re too old to exercise? Nonsense! In a study published in the Journal of Aging and Health (2006), researchers reported on the exercise activities of 64 men and women ages 66 to 96 who lived in an independent living facility. The volunteers were divided into three groups: a walking group, a resistance training group, and a control group (no exercise). At the end of the sixteen-week study, the investigators found that the volunteers in both of the exercise groups enjoyed better body strength, flexibility, and agility, even in areas that were not trained, than the non-exercise group. These improvements typically translate into people being able to take better care of themselves and to live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. The study findings suggest that exercise in older people may provide more overall health benefits and less exercise-specific advantages than in younger people, which translates into a great deal for older adults.
What You Can Do Now
Before you start any exercise program, you should check with your doctor to make sure you choose the safest and most efficient type and intensity of exercise program for you. Moderate, regular (30 to 45 minutes, five to six days per week) exercise is the general prescription to combat aging. Remember the list of signs and symptoms of aging mentioned earlier in the site? Exercise helps fight many of them. For example, regular exercise helps improve heart and lung function, increases bone density, reduces body fat, improves muscle strength, improves the ability of the body to utilize insulin, reduces blood pressure, alleviates stress, improves mood, enhances sex drive and sexual function, and reduces joint pain.
One of the most common complaints about exercise is that it’s boring, and boredom quickly leads to non-compliance. But exercise can be much more interesting if you add variety, and variety begins with a three-part approach to anti-aging exercise: stretching, aerobic training, and strength/resistance training. There are dozens of excellent sites that contain suggestions and instructions in each of these categories. Always check with your doctor first, however.
- Stretching. It’s important to maintain flexibility, and stretching is a great way to do it. Every exercise session should include stretching, but don’t start your sessions with a stretch! Warm up your muscles first with five or ten minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking. Stretching cold muscles can result in injury. After you do your aerobic and/or resistance training, then take five minutes to stretch again. Many yoga poses are excellent ways to stretch and stay flexible.
- Aerobic training. Choose from activities that fit your interest and abilities, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking, tennis, racquetball, jazzercise, or use exercise equipment such as a stationary bike, treadmill, rowing machine, or stair stepper. Begin and end each 20 to 30 minute aerobic session with five minutes of stretching, and strive for five sessions per week. Talk to your doctor about the best training program for you.
- Strength/resistance training. Strength training helps you build and maintain muscle strength, as well as helps lower blood sugar levels, maintains bone density, reduces cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, strengthens ligaments and tendons, and increases the production of testosterone (read more about the importance of this hormone in “Balancing Hormones”). Two or three 10-minute sessions of strength or resistance training per week is usually recommended.
Other ways to avoid boredom include exercising with a friend or in a group, exercising to music or while watching TV or a video, and alternating your activities. Having a dog that needs to be exercised is a good way to get you out of the house. Don’t have a dog? Offer to walk or jog with a neighbor’s dog.
Category: Fight aging now