The unanimous recommendation by virtually all experts is that the single most important anti aging measure anyone can follow regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness is to exercise regularly. Sedentary lifestyles are known to accelerate just about every unwanted aspect of aging. Physical activity slows the erosion of muscle strength, maintains better respiratory functioning and cardiovascular health, limits the risk of developing diabetes and helps prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone mass. It also facilitates digestion, promotes efficient bowel function, reduces insomnia and lessens the risk of depression.
Elderly individuals who exercise regularly typically outperform individuals half their age in various sports and usually have significantly fewer risks for heart disease such as high blood pressure, a better lipid profile and less weight than individuals who do not exercise. A published article in the Archives of Internal Medicine stated that in a survey of about 5000 men and approximately the same amount of women who exercise vigorously, had cholesterol and triglyceride levels 9% to 27% lower than those found in sedentary men. Some experts point out that such changes may reduce the risk of dying of heart disease by as much as 25%. Additionally, women also reported that vigorous exercise significantly improved lipid profiles much more than their sedentary counterparts.
A recent article in the American College of Sports Medicine recommended that in order to be effective, a program must include the following components: aerobic exercise such as running or bicycling, which increases the demand placed on the cardiovascular and respiratory system; strength training using light weights or an individual’s own body weight to work the major muscle groups; and stretching to improve flexibility in both the joints and muscles.
Some experts recommend that you should exercise, expending 2,000 to 3,000 calories per week above your normal sedentary baseline level, which is roughly the equivalent of jogging about 4 miles a day, five days a week. Research has found however, that less vigorous exercise is also highly beneficial. One study found for example, that taking a brisk 30 minute walk three times a week can reduce blood pressure by an average of 10 mm Hg/ 8.6 mm Hg.
The amount of exercise actually done depends upon your general health, present level of fitness and what you can actually do. Obviously, older, unconditioned muscles and bones are much more vulnerable to injury, so commitment and consistency are extremely important. Exercise on a regular basis is always the best means of protection.
You should always check with your doctor prior to beginning any type of exercise routine. Also,you should always begin gradually in order to ensure success, especially if you’re over the age of 50. If you have never exercised before, you should talk to your physician who may even recommend a physical therapist or other specialist who can offer you instruction prior to beginning an exercise program.
Some Information from The Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to Health After 50
Webpage and additional information by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist