I have been bugging my mom for years to get back into some sort of an exercise routine — walking or joining a water aerobics class at the fitness center. While she blocked me at every turn, a recent fall has landed her in a rehab facility, where exercise is now part of her daily routine and one that she actually looks forward to. Exercise is good for everyone at any age. Exercise can help make you stronger, prevent bone loss, improve balance, boost your memory and ease the symptoms of many chronic conditions.
Allow me to de-bunk some of the myths that keep some seniors on the couch:
— Trying to exercise is pointless. Failing health in old age is inevitable: This is so not true. Folks in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are running marathons, weightlifting and competing in all sorts of sports. I get out-performed on a regular basis by 70-somethings in both CrossFit and golf. A lot of the symptoms we equate with old age, such as weakness or balance issues, are actually caused by inactivity. Regular exercise can improve balance and prevent falls.
— Exercise isn’t safe for someone my age. I don’t want to fall and break a hip: In fact, studies show that regular exercise can prevent falls. Folks that exercise have better balance, coordination and strength. Also, the increased bone density that results from regular exercise can prevent serious injury if a fall occurs.
— I’m sick, so I shouldn’t exercise: On the contrary, folks with chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease benefit from regular exercise. Exercise reduces blood pressure, keeps joints loose and keeps body weight regulated.
— I never really exercised before. It’s too late to make a difference in my health: It is never too late to add exercise into your routine. Studies conducted in nursing homes have shown that folks starting exercise programs well into their 80’s have better quality of life than those who are sedentary.
— Exercise will hurt my joints: Folks with painful joints think it is counterintuitive to exercise but that is not the case. Studies show that folks with arthritis who exercise have less pain and more mobility.
No matter what your age, it is never too late to start or re-start an exercise program. As always, if it has been awhile, check with your physician before diving in. I guarantee if you get moving, your latter years will be much more enjoyable.
Kathy Hansen has over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness field and plans to keep exercising until she can no longer move. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.