Aging Gracefully

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Simply put – exercising helps us age more gracefully. Almost everyone knows the sort of problems we face when aging – slower metabolism, bone loss and stiffness in joints, muscle loss, balance problems, less endurance and heart and lung problems. We all want a quick fix to aging, such as injections and facelifts or a pill we can take to halt or reduce the aging process. But, in reality, regular exercise is the only thing we can do for ourselves that will increase our overall health and well-being. Exercise can help us maintain the ability to do things we love and to accomplish everyday tasks that we need to do rather than depending on someone else.

Even if you’re a very out of shape senior citizen, there are simple exercises you can do that will make you feel better and enjoy your life. Stretching is simple to do (you can even stretch while sitting) and can make remarkable strides in improving your joints and muscles. You can find online stretching exercises, choose from the many television shows that promote exercising or get a book from the library or bookstore.

You’ll want to be sure to choose exercises that stretch your back, arms, calves, thighs, stomach and chest – but don’t overdo it. Stretch for 5 to 20 minutes per day or whatever you feel up to. Any activity that increases your endurance is great for senior citizens. Those exercises might include gardening, biking, swimming or simply walking the dog. Try to increase your breathing and heart rate, but don’t exercise so strenuously that you lose your ability to talk. Take it easy and you’ll benefit more than you realize. Strength exercises are very important to engage in as you age. The more you can strengthen your muscles, the better able you’ll be to increase your metabolism (maintain a normal weight) and keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Strength exercises can be in the form of machines at a gym or fitness center – or, you can even use items around the house, such as books and cans of food.

Exercises designed to strengthen your back should be an important part of your exercise program. Back pain can be excruciating and life-changing and is common in senior citizens. Ask your doctor for a list of exercises you can do to strengthen back muscles or research on your own to find some that are right for you. One of the worst maladies that can affect senior citizens is balance problems.

Aging can cause loss of balance, but so can certain medications. There are exercises to specifically build your leg muscles and increase your perception of balance so that you’re less likely to fall. Keep in mind that in the United States, hospitals admit over 400,000 people per year for broken hips – and most are senior citizens. I know that one of the things I do for balance is walking down the rail road tracks just outside the YMCA where I do my senior exercise, along with many other seniors. I have gotten much better in the year or so that I have practiced. I do not walk them when they are wet or slippery and my kids love to join me. Remember a lot of balance receptors are in the bottom of your feet. Exercise is a key piece of the brain fitness puzzle too. Remember, this is not an olympic training that we are doing, just strenuous enough to get the breathing deep. That gets the neurogenesis and neuroplasticity going so that we have replacement parts popping online everyday. So not a sore muscle routine, but definitely regular. Daily is best.

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