Resisting the Weight of Aging
Have you ever stopped to think that we start to age as soon as we are born? What have you been doing to improve your health as you age? My gym has a program where you can determine your “health/fitness age.” How do you think you’d score? Thanks to learning more about aging, my whole life improved (saving money, eating healthier, exercising, sleeping more, etc.)
I know my passion around Gerontology and Dementia practices is pretty evident but I bet you didn’t know my other passion is fitness! It’s true! I am even competing in a competition in June. I wanted to prove to my family and friends who swear that due to genetics I would always struggle with weight and have to live a life without bread (not true!). As I learned more about the importance of being physically fit, eating a balanced diet, and living a healthy lifestyle, I also learned more about the importance of weight training on our aging bodies.
So, the purpose of this blog post is to discuss the importance of exercise as we age. As older adults age, they lose the ability to perform normal Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Independent Activities of Daily Living (IADLS) such as:
A lot of these changes are caused by musculoskeletal degeneration and other declines in areas such as:
- Cardiac Changes
- Muscle Mass
- Connective Tissue Elasticity
- Bone density
The causes of muscle decreases are not completely known but there are several theories including:
- Reduction in antioxidant levels
- Cell Death
- Inflammation (an immune response to injury or infection)
- Hormal dysregulation
- Alterations in protein turnover
- Dysfunction of the mitochondria
However, one thing that all researchers agree on is that resistance training is important as we age. However, with exercising there are important considerations and guidelines to follow.
- Progression should be gradual, ultimately aiming for to 20-45 minutes of exercise 3-5 days per week.
- Resistance exercise is recommended
- Lower initial weight and slower progression (1-3 sets of 8-10 exercises with 8-20 reps).
- Seated exercises should be used until strength is improved, then if safe, standing exercises should be implemented.
It is highly recommended that a professional is consulted for improving exercise among older adults. In my experience, Physical Therapy can be expensive once a patient is discharged and insurance no longer covers the cost, which can result in continued decline.
If a person has dementia, they likely won’t be able to perform the exercises without guidance. So while a physical therapist may be able to provide a list of exercises to do daily, this isn’t something a personal with dementia can likely do on their own. Considering a personal trainer may be a more affordable and practical option.
Benefits of Exercise for older adults with or without Dementia:
- Improved Mood
- Better Sleep
Reduce likelihood of constipation
- Maintenance of motor skills
- Reduced risk of falls
- Reduced Rate of disease-associated mental decline
- Reduction of “problematic behaviors” (ie: wandering, swearing, aggressive behavior, agitation)
- Improved communication and social skills
You will definitely want to be proactive as you age. Don’t wait until you’re 70 or 80 and trying to rebuild what has been lost. In February of 2015, I decided I wanted to change my life for the better and practice what I preach. I wanted to gain skills to help aging adults but realized I couldn’t tell them how to exercise if I was overweight and unhealthy. If you are interested in learning about weight training now, I highly recommend using a professional training coach. Correct form is important.
Benefits of exercising as we age:
- Reduce risk of Dementia
- Improved Cardiovascular Performance
- Improved Muscle Mass
- Improved Balance
- Improved Coordination
- Reduce Stress
- Reduce Risk of obesity
- Reduce Risk of diabetes
I’d love to hear about your success story or your challenges! Drop a comment below!
“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again.” -Bikram Choudhury