As people age, staying active becomes more and more important. Maintaining fitness is important for overall health and longevity. Exercise improves a person’s chances of living longer, and also means a better quality of life while spending those extra years on the planet.
Some of the most basic exercises are also some of the most important. They keep vital muscles strong, helping maintain balance and stability. But knowing where to start is difficult if you haven’t kept up with an exercise regimen, or don’t belong to a health club. So, how can someone get back to fitness? Which exercises are most important as we age, and why?
Following are the Top 5 Exercises recommended by Anita Tomasevik, life enrichment Manager at The Mather, of Mather LifeWays, a non-denominational, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Evanston, Ill., that creates Ways to Age WellSM for older adults. Locally, Splendido is a joint venture between Mather LifeWays and the Plaza Companies, an Arizona-based leader in senior living communities.
1. Squats - Squats are a great exercise for a number of reasons. Squats help preserve physical function, and are good for strengthening hips, thighs, and buttocks which are all key for walking, jogging, and climbing stairs – basically maintaining mobility.
2. Forward crunches on a chair – Crunches help maintain core muscles, which are the muscles that support the spine, and abdominis muscles, or “abs”. A strong core helps preserve stability and increases balance, which not only helps prevent falls, but also eliminates back pain by reducing strain on the back.
3. Balance exercises - Balance helps your body in so many ways. It helps with neuromuscular coordination, which is the connection or communication between your body and your brain. Balance exercises help with hip stabilization and core stabilization, which improves posture. Improving balance also helps prevent falls.
4. Kegel exercises – Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that control the flow of urine and hold the pelvic organs in place. Urinary incontinence can come with age, and Kegel exercises can greatly improve bladder control, which allows older adults to maintain their lifestyle as they age, without having to worry.
5. Walking – Walking is really the best exercise. Just 30 minutes a day can increase cardiovascular fitness, reduce body fat, strengthen bones, and boost muscle power and endurance. Walking is free and doesn’t require any special equipment or training, but if you want to keep track, buy a pedometer with the ultimate recommended goal of walking 10,000 steps per day.
Walking reduces the risk of developing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and some types of cancers. Another benefit of walking is the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are chemicals which minimize any physical discomfort, blocking the feeling of pain and causing a natural, “feel good” rush.
When a person was born usually has a lot to do with their attitudes about, and past experience with, exercise. Traditionalists, born between 1925 and 1945, tend to say they wish they’d taken care of their bodies sooner. Baby Boomers, born between 1945 and 1964, are the first generation that grew up exercising, so in addition to the basics they are more open to try new things like Zumba or yoga.
Remember, regardless of when, how or where someone is beginning; the important thing to keep in mind is that exercise doesn’t need to be difficult, it only needs to be done. Beginning an exercise routine today will help bring a better tomorrow.
Splendido offers all-inclusive living for adults 55 years and better through the 10,000-square-foot Saluté Spa & Fitness Center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, 24-hour concierge service, multiple restaurants and venues, an 18-hole putting course and cinema. To learn more about Splendido, call 878-2612 or visit www.splendidotucson.com.