How old is too old to workout? We say never! We have had more than a handful of centenarians in our Instrumentalcize™ Brain & Body Fitness classes - up to 106 years young! We'd like to think it's because our music draws them in and our welcoming, easy to follow program (modifiable for all) keeps them. We know that this kind of participation in fitness is rare with seniors.
"Just one out of four people between the ages of 65 and 74 exercises regularly. Many people assume that they're too out-of-shape, or sick, or tired, or just plain old to exercise. They're wrong. 'Exercise is almost always good for people of any age," says Chhanda Dutta, PhD, chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging. Exercise can help make you stronger, prevent bone loss, improve balance and coordination, lift your mood, boost your memory, and ease the symptoms of many chronic conditions'."1
And she says it's never too late to start!
"Studies have found that even in people in their nineties living in nursing homes, starting an exercise routine can boost muscle strength. Other research shows that starting exercise late in life can still cut the risk of health problems -- such as diabetes --and improve symptoms. "It really is never too late to start exercising and reaping the benefits," Dutta tells WebMD."1
"A lot of the symptoms that we associate with old age -- such as weakness and loss of balance -- are actually symptoms of inactivity, not age, says Alicia I. Arbaje, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore."1
Doctors say incorporating daily activity can add years to your life. "Not only does regular exercise help stave off heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and depression — but moving regularly makes it easier to remain active well into your senior years by keeping tendons, ligaments, and joints flexible and healthy. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends working in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity at least four to six days per week — a combination of aerobic, strength, and flexibility training is best."2
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 20 percent of our U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030. That's in keeping with worldwide growth - as seniors are the fastest-growing segment of the population. With all of this growth, senior health is being followed more closely than ever & more studies are being released as to what we can each do to age gracefully and healthfully.
"In one study involving more than 1,700 adults who were followed for six years, people over 65 who exercised for 15 minutes three times a week reduced their risk for dementia by one-third. Another study, published in Neurology, was even more promising: Researchers found that walking about 72 blocks a week halted brain shrinkage and cut the risk for developing cognitive decline and dementia by 50 percent. 2
The body is one unit, so there's no debating that physical fitness and brain fitness go hand in hand. There's much research going on right now to determine exactly how the two are intertwined. Here's one looking at the relationship between exercise and Alzheimer's/dementia: https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/putting-exercise-test-people-risk-alzheimers. The study is still in progress, so no findings as of yet, but exciting to follow.
Doctors remind us, too, that just because someone in your family has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, does not mean you will get it. "Some forms of dementia do have a genetic component, especially if a close relative such as a parent or sibling has the disease — but as with many inherited diseases, you have some control over how inherited risk plays out in your own life. 'Our evidence is that good heart health — exercise, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol — will help prevent dementia'..." 7
Regular exercise (alongside good nutrition) is known to promote vascular health to help protect brain tissue. 8
So, with all of these benefits to exercise, why would anyone not do it?
Many who want to start exercise are fearful of getting started. They may worry about being too weak or feel like they already have too many aches and pains to begin. "Getting moving can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently." 3
Of course, it never hurts to have a discussion with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. For many, this can provide peace of mind that they are embarking on something helpful and healthy. Those with medical impairments should definitely get clearance from their doctors before starting and should ask for a list of any necessary modifications or limitations.
"Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. You can still exercise even if you have a health condition like heart disease or diabetes. In fact, physical activity may help. For most older adults, brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, weight lifting, and gardening are safe, especially if you build up slowly. But, check with your doctor if you are over 50 and you aren't physically active. Other reasons to check with your doctor before you exercise include:
Any new symptom you haven't discussed with your doctor
Dizziness or shortness of breath
Chest pain or pressure or the feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering
An infection or fever with muscle aches
Unplanned weight loss
Foot or ankle sores that won't heal
A bleeding or detached retina, eye surgery, or laser treatment
Recent hip or back surgery" 4
In addition to getting clearance from a physician, what can you do to make sure you are exercising safely?
Start slow and build-up to your goals. It's okay if you haven't been active for a long time, but start small. You can exercise for a few minutes and then rest as long as you want. You'll still get benefit from moving. "The American Heart Association recommends at least 150-minutes of moderate activity each week. An easy way to remember this is 30 minutes at least 5 days a week, but three 10-minute periods of activity are as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30-minute session." 5
Keep breathing and hold onto any equipment lightly (but securely) while working out. Holding your breath or squeezing equipment too tight can cause changes in your blood pressure.
Drink plenty of water unless your doctor has advised otherwise. It's common for seniors to not notice they are thirsty even when their bodies need fluids.
Warm up your muscles before you stretch.
Listen to your body. If it hurts, don't do it.
"When you begin working out, consider your current energy level, listen to your body and determine what over-exercising means to you. Do you feel overly tired and short of breath? Are your muscles sore and stiff for days after your workout? Do you feel nauseous or keep injuring yourself? These are all signs that you’re over-exercising, and it’s time to ease up on certain exercises to avoid any health issues." 6
We could go on all day about the benefits of physical exercise, but instead, we invite you to try for yourself! Come take an Instrumentalcize™ Brain & Body Fitness class with us or find something else that you enjoy in your community. Most importantly, just move...EVERY DAY! Your body will love you for it, and even if you can't muster up the energy to smile on the outside, we know that you'll be smiling on the inside!
For more information about taking an Instrumentalcize™ Brain & Body Fitness class, hosting a class at your senior living facility or becoming an instructor, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seniors don't always look happy when they're focused, but we promise you that this group is smiling on the inside!