The number one cause of injury in older adults are falls. Each year one in three people over the age of 65 will experience a fall that could cause serious injuries, leading to disability and loss of independence. As we age our bodies change; bones get weaker, muscles and tendons shorten and our balance is affected. Nevertheless, daily exercise is a simple solution to stop the decline and reverse it.
Benefits of Exercise
1. Stronger Bones: Weight lifting improves posture and increases bone density reducing the chances of developing osteoporosis and hence breaking a bone
2. Healthier Heart: A strong heart lowers the resting heart rate and improves circulation by pumping more blood with each beat for faster oxygen delivery
3. Improved Healing: As we age, injuries and wounds take longer to heal, but regular exercise speeds up the wound-healing process and increases life expectancy
4. Enhanced Flexibility: stretching improves flexibility which is the ability to move joints through their full range of motion, diminishing the chances of injury
5. Reduced Aging Effects: Exercise may delay or prevent diseases associated with aging such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer.
Medication and Balance
Certain medications reduce mental alertness and can cause a drop in blood pressure resulting in dizziness. It might not be possible to stop taking the medication, but preventing injury by working on balance is possible. Standing on one leg or on an unstable surface, trains the brain in a controlled environment on how to avoid a fall in case of loss of balance by activating the muscles needed to restore equilibrium. As a trainer I emphasize working on balance even for clients in their early twenties because balance exercises are the most commonly neglected component of a workout. Balance exercises can easily be incorporated by utilizing a stability ball, a Bosu (half a stability ball, flat on the other side) or even a pillow. When balancing on an unstable surface you wobble forwards, backwards and sideways while the brain figures out the body position and activates the muscles that pull you back to the center. The more you practice balance training in a controlled environment, the quicker the brain can learn to activate the right muscles in time of a fall.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that previously sedentary seniors who incorporated exercise into their lifestyles improved physical function and experienced mental benefits. The exercise mode can be recreational like walking, gardening and carrying groceries or more structured at a gym. Yoga and Tai Chi are also good to improve strength, flexibility and balance. Nonetheless, you need more than just exercise to improve your quality of life: eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and water; cultivating a hobby, volunteering, and solving puzzles to keep the intellect sharp; and limiting alcohol which reduces senses. It’s never too late to start exercising and only ten minutes a day of moderate exercise can lead to substantial health benefits for a better quality of life.
About the Author
Aris Akavan, ACE certified Personal Trainer & Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach, is owner of Body Fitness by Aris. Her mission is to assist others in leading a healthier lifestyle by balancing exercise and proper eating habits to achieve the ultimate body & mind wellness. Aris leads by example as she practices what she preaches. She leads an alcohol free and smoke free lifestyle and has worked out while following proper nutrition practices for over 10 years. In the last few years she also started participating in 5k races, adventure runs and triathlons. You can visit Aris at any of her following: