Five myths about exercise and aging

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Five myths about exercise and aging

As you get older, exercising can be a bit tricky.  You may discover your once resilient body doesn’t quite recover as quickly as it once did and any injuries from your past may begin to create physical issues. But maintaining an active lifestyle as the years go by is more important than ever.  Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain your independence and manage symptoms of illness or pain. It can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging along with added benefits to your mind, mood, and memory.

That’s why no matter what your age or current physical condition, you can always benefit from exercise. Reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym.  It’s about adding in more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness – even if you’re housebound – there are many easy ways to get your body moving and improve your health and outlook.

Five myths about exercise and aging

The important thing is to not let certain ‘myths’ about exercise and aging slow you down.  Don’t believe you can’t do it or that reaching a certain age means you should forego physical activity.  Following are five myths many people may associate with exercise and aging that are dispelled once and for all:

1.  Myth: There’s no point to exercising, I’m going to get old anyway.

 Fact: Exercise and strength training helps you look and feel younger and stay active longer.  Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and obesity.  Not only can exercise help stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, it even improves it.  And the mood benefits of exercise can be just as great at 70 or 80 as they were at 20 or 30.

2.  Myth: Older people shouldn’t exercise.  They should save their strength and rest.

Fact: Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for adults over 50. Inactivity often causes older adults to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits, and use of medicines for illnesses.

3.  Myth: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.

Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.  By preserving strength and stamina, this also increases your ability to retain independence living in your own home.  This alone can delay or prevent having to move into a long-term care facility.   

4. Myth: It’s too late. I’m already too old to start exercising.

Fact: You’re never too old to start exercising and improve your health.  In fact, adults who take up exercise later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. It you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, you won’t be encumbered by the same sports injuries that many regular exercisers experience in later life.  In other words, there aren’t as many miles on your clock so you’ll start reaping the benefits.  Just begin with gentle activities and build up from there.

5. Myth:  I’m disabled. I can’t exercise sitting down.

Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair Tai Chi to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility and promote cardiovascular health.  Many swimming pools offer access to wheelchair users and there are adaptive exercise programs for wheelchair sports such as basketball.

Tips for staying active for life

Here are some ways to make physical fitness a normal part of your lifestyle, no matter what age you are:

·      Keep a log – Writing down your activities in an exercise journal not only holds you accountable but also is a reminder of your accomplishments.

·      Stay inspired – Reading health magazines or watching sporting events can help remind you how great it feels to take care of your body.

·      Get support – It’s easier to keep going with support. Consider taking a class or exercising with your spouse or a buddy.

·      Exercise safely – Nothing derails an exercise plan like an injury.  Use common sense and don’t exercise if you are ill. Wear brightly colored clothing to be visible on the roads.  When the weather brings slippery conditions, walk at a mall indoors to prevent falling.

·      Don’t feel guilty – If you have to skip a day or don’t exercise for as long as normal on another day, just make up for it over the next few days.  Some days you may walk for 30 minutes, another day it may only be for 10. Just remember, something is always better than nothing.