Oftentimes as we transition into the later stages of life we lose touch with our bodies. We develop pain in areas we didn’t know could hurt and the body naturally slows. When Covid-19 hit our daily lives were disrupted, making getting outside and exercising a greater challenge than ever before. Many have given up and have fallen into a sedentary lifestyle without the intention of doing so. Now more than ever it is important to stay healthy and active. Just thirty minutes of exercise daily reduces the risk of falls, heart disease, immobility, increases blood flow to the muscles, improves sleep patterns and releases serotonin in the brain which enhances mood and energy levels.
De-conditioning is the process that happens due to a sedentary lifestyle. De-conditioning can happen after only 72 hours of being sedentary in older age. De-conditioning causes muscle weakness, slowed movement, unintentional weight loss or gain and muscle atrophy. Luckily, this process is preventable and reversible! It’s never too late to condition the body.
Although conditioning the body is possible at any age; the process of reconditioning looks different as we age. Reconditioning is a gradual process that slowly reintroduces the body’s main muscle groups to movement and resistance. For starters, simply walking does wonderful things for your body and it’s something that can be done safely and at your own pace. Health guidelines suggest walking 20-30 minutes per day; keep in mind the 20-30 minutes can be broken up into smaller periods of time throughout the day. Walking engages the entire body and slows the process of osteoporosis, osteopenia and sarcopenia as well as strengthens the muscles in your legs and feet. Moreover, studies show that resistance training for the aging population proves to be the most effective way to maintain muscle mass, strength and to reduce deterioration of joints. Resistance training is classified by four things; intensity, frequency, duration and specificity. Intensity refers to the amount of weight you are using; when re-conditioning the body starting with lighter weights is recommended. Frequency refers to how often you engage in resistance training. Physical Therapists recommend engaging in resistance training 2-3 times a week. Duration is for how long you work against resistance and how many reps you do. It is recommended that 8-12 reps is adequate to re-condition. Lastly specificity speaks to the area of the body you are exercising; it is important to be well rounded with your exercise. Well rounded meaning working your arms, legs and core muscles equally. Each of these core muscle groups plays a vital role in everyday life and functional ability.
Every body is different, listening to what your body needs is utmost important. If an exercise brings you pain. Stop. If you overdid it one day; it’s okay to allow yourself a rest day. Aging increases the risk for injury, so don’t push your personal limits. I encourage everyone to keep moving their bodies in any way they possibly can. It is crucial for living a long, happy and healthy life.
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