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By Karen Alexander

Oncology Wellness Specialist on 10/13/2017

Why It’s Important for Seniors to Exercise

By 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its senior population. In 2050, the population of people aged 65 and older is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double the 43.1 million people in that age bracket in 2012. Aging is a dynamic and progressive process that results in deterioration of physical and functional body and brain changes. The elderly stages of life are characterized by development of chronic diseases as well as loss of muscle mass, coordination and balance, slowed metabolism, reduced capacity to use calories, and reduced quality of life and ability to participate in daily activities. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes we can make to minimize these processes and stay healthy for longer.

Exercise is a planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement intended to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise is an important part of healthy aging since it can help prevent or control many chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cholesterol, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, among others. Weightlifting has been shown to increase muscle mass, strength, power, the capacity to burn calories, and body-muscle composition. It could be a useful strategy to improve health and preventing some disorders related to sedentary habits, as well as minimize some of the side effects of aging.

In addition to having a positive impact on some health conditions, researchers state that long-term exercise programs can significantly enhance cognition in the older population, especially if the program combines resistance and aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise and strength training (like weightlifting) may improve cognitive function such as memory, attention, and how well people carry out tasks. Together, they increase cerebral blood flow and influence neurological pathways involved with learning and memory. This is if the physical training is done consistently over a period of months.

Studies show that while aerobic exercise significantly enhances cognitive ability, weightlifting has a pronounced effect on executive function, memory, and working memory. Sessions lasting between 45 and 60 minutes at a moderate intensity are associated with cognitive benefits. The positive results of exercising go beyond the expected, since people can benefit even if they were already showing signs of mental decline. This means exercise can help those with early signs of dementia stay mentally alert for longer.

Each week, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. They should also perform muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days a week. 

To learn more about the recommended amounts of physical activity from the CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine please click here.

Remember, some physical activity is better than nothing. If you do not have time to complete the full recommended amount, do whatever you can. Your body will benefit even from a brisk walk.

 

Have a wonderful weekend,

Karen Ambrosio, OWS

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