April Exercise of the Month: Get Moving to Maintain Your Independence
Kayla Thompson, MS, ACSM-EP
A question for the ages: why? When it comes to exercise, we often ask why. Why should we exercise? Why is it important? Why should you exercise as you age? I am here to help answer these questions.
Many of us are concerned about maintaining independence as we age. We want to live in our own homes, eat what we want, and drive our cars on our own time. We are taught throughout life to reach for and maintain independence.
According to The National Council on Aging, nearly 56 million Americans are 65 and older. The average life expectancy of an American is 77. That’s a significant amount of time where we may potentially be dependent on others. The National Council on Aging says, “For most older adults, good health ensures independence, security, and productivity as they age. Unfortunately, millions struggle every day with challenges such as chronic diseases, falls, physical inactivity, oral health concerns, and behavioral health issues – all of which can severely impact quality of life.” Want to know the good news? Physical activity can help delay and prevent a lot of those issues!
According to The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), overwhelming evidence supports that physical activity helps in slowing typical age-related changes and optimizing body composition, promoting mental well-being, managing chronic diseases, reducing risk of physical disability, and increasing longevity. Physical activity is the pathway to a more independent life as you age. If you want to enjoy all the time possible with your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, you have to get moving!
It is important to spend time on all aspects of fitness as you get older. Fall prevention is a crucial aspect when thinking about your exercise regimen as you age – one in four seniors fall every year in the United States. Whether you have had a fall or not, ACSM recommends neuromotor exercise training. This training combines balance, agility, and proprioceptive training and is effective in reducing and preventing falls if performed 2-3 days per week. Examples of this could include stretching, yoga, tai chi, and other exercises that involve controlled movement or sustained stretching of various muscle groups.
As you age, an emphasis on resistance training is also needed. Muscular strength decreases rapidly with age, especially for those older than 50. Although resistance training is important across the lifespan, it becomes more important with increasing age.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of incorporating all of these changes, remember to start small and take it slow. If you are brand new to exercise, just try going for a walk. Meet some friends and walk together. Exercise can be fun with the right people!
A few other exercises you can start at home are: the supported tandem stance, marching in place, and sitting to stand (see the incorporated infographic for descriptions of each movement). Start small and listen to your body as you pursue exercise. Bring your friends and family along with you in this journey, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Get up and get active, for your health and independence! For questions or concerns, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kayla Thompson is a diabetes care navigator at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and a certified exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has a Master of Science in clinical exercise science.