There really isn't a magical fountain of youth, but with increased regular physical activity you can increase the enjoyment of your golden years, improve your overall health and possibly lengthen your life expectancy. A 2013 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine stated emphatically, "Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for premature death."
Hypertension, obesity, arthritis and diabetes are some of the common conditions that plague folks ages 45 and up; however, regular exercise can help shed pounds, tone muscles, lower blood pressure and control diabetes. After years of job stress, retirees especially can benefit from starting an exercise program, something they may not have had the time or opportunity to pursue during their earlier years.
The American College of Sports Medicine estimates that by the year 2030, people age 85 and older will be the fastest growing group in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other institutions have studied the effects of aging: By age 40, muscle mass begins to decrease and metabolism slows. Endurance begins to lessen. Balance is affected as muscles and bones weaken and the risk of injuries from falls is greater. Doctors even found a correlation between the speed of walking and coronary diseases. A focus group was studied and it was found that the slower a person walked, the higher the risk was for cardiac problems. Some participants couldn't walk a quarter mile due to fatigue, shortness of breath and pain. Older and inactive adults also tend to lose range of motion in their joints, making everyday activities and previously fun pursuits difficult. Adults 55 years of age or older will also begin to lose brain tissue; however, cardiovascular fitness and muscle mass will slow that loss substantially. Exercise has also been known to combat depression. It is never too late to begin an exercise program.
Ideally, no exercise program should be started before speaking to your doctor. Even low-impact activities such as walking, or favorite pastimes like golf or dancing, can start burning calories and toning your body. When you drive to the grocery store, try parking your car a little further away in the parking lot. Walk on the golf course instead of using a cart. Take an extra trip up and down your household steps now and then.
Damaged joints, brittle bones and loss of balance can sometimes mean that high-impact workouts may hurt more than they help. Your exercise plan should be catered to your physical needs. Personal trainers can help you create a routine that will let you improve stamina, endurance and balance. Ignore the adage: "No pain, no gain." Healthy exercise should not cause you lasting pain or damage. Focus on exercises that fit your lifestyle. Isometric and water aerobics are low-impact activities that will strengthen muscles, rebuild bone density, improve cardiac output and improve your overall health. Brisk walking for just 30 minutes a day will strengthen your legs and hips, improve circulation and increase your life expectancy. Low impact and calming tai chi will minimize stresses on the body and improve health.
The National Institute on Aging offers sound advice on their website. They also offer a free exercise DVD that targets seniors -- visit the website or call 800-222-2225 to order your free DVD or to download an easy-to-carry exercise routine. The Go4Life exercises make use of common household items and can be done at your convenience. Exercises include the wall push-up to help build upper body strength, stretching to increase flexibility, overhead arm lifts with weights to strengthen bones and balancing exercises. Participants are encouraged to exercise every day. The Go4Life workout from the National Institute on Aging is ideal for the first-time exercise enthusiast, the person returning to regular physical activity after a break and anyone desiring a scientifically designed routine to maintain body tone to help as they age. Even if you haven't had a daily exercise regimen before, it isn't too late to start.