There’s an old wives’ tale that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
However, when it comes to humans, the body is capable of learning new strategies to adapt to changes brought about by aging. Older adults, in particular, are more prone than any other subset of the population to falling. However, by continuing to exercise, things like muscle mass, bone density, balance, and stability can be preserved. This can keep individuals thriving long into old age and greatly reduce the risk of falls or injury.
Exercise plays a major role in maintaining the body’s ability to adapt to the changes it faces with age. There are several reasons as to why it’s important to remain active throughout the later years. For one, as we age, we naturally experience a decrease in bone mineral density and lean muscle mass. In addition, our balance and stability can decrease, therefore increasing the risk for falls. Remaining active and continuing with some form of exercise as we age can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, and allow us to remain independent for as long as possible. Exercise can also encourage older individuals to remain social, and the two go hand in hand with maintaining a good quality of life.
Bones naturally weaken with age. However, weight-bearing exercise induces a process in which bones lay down new material to strengthen existing bone. This can prevent arthritis and keep our bones healthy and strong, especially in the lower body which supports the load of one’s bodyweight. Exercise is also crucial for maintaining a healthy body weight; a heavier body weight can weaken bones of the hips, knees, and ankles, increasing the chance of fracture or leading one to become sedentary.
Lean muscle mass also decreases with age but is still attainable through resistance training. Lean muscle mass refers to the portion of our body weight that excludes the weight of body fat. A decline in physical activity can lead to a decrease in lean muscle mass and a proportional increase in body weight. Muscles that are weak are less capable of supporting body weight, maintaining posture, and helping one perform activities of daily living. A key role of muscles is to cause the skeletal system to move efficiently and without pain. Therefore, incorporating resistance exercises into one’s routine is the best way to continue moving and remain independent and pain-free. Body weight or lightweight exercises are beneficial for preserving muscle mass and muscular endurance.
Several exercises that are beneficial for older adults can be done with little to no equipment and in the comfort of one’s home or at the gym with friends! Performing compound exercises, which recruit multiple joints and muscle groups at once, are a great way to maximize a workout. Balance training should also be incorporated to maintain stability and reduce the risk of a fall.
Easy Bodyweight Exercises:
- wall push up
- calf raises
- standing marches
Cardiovascular exercises keep the heart muscle healthy and functioning efficiently. In addition to maintaining the health of the cardiovascular and respiratory system, cardiovascular exercises are also extremely beneficial for muscular endurance. Cardio doesn’t have to consist solely of running; the following modes of exercise are great cardio workouts and are enjoyable with friends:
- brisk walk
- dancing, Zumba, etc
- walking stairs
For individuals who use a wheelchair or are more comfortable seated, there are several exercises that can be modified to be done in a seated position.
Seated Strengthening Exercises:
- knee extension
- shoulder press
- triceps extension
- scapula protraction/retraction
Performing exercises that challenge balance increases our proprioception, which gives us the ability to carry out certain movements relative to our surroundings without much conscious thought. Balance training also recruits smaller muscle groups that are not always engaged as heavily during traditional lifting exercises.
- bird dogs
- standing 1 foot
- single leg stand up from a seat/bench
- standing DL/toe touch
- standing hip abduction
Would you like to exercise more and become healthier for it? No matter what your age, CORE is here to help you meet all your fitness and wellness goals! We offer free initial assessments for Personal Training, not to mention Therapeutic or Corrective Exercise for chronic conditions or injuries. And, for older adults, we’d recommend trying out our new hyperbaric chamber which can treat vascular and respiratory conditions, as well as migraines!