As I get older, I agree more with Bette Davis’ statement that aging is not for sissies. Aging has taught me that my muscles and joints have more opinions, sometimes rather painful ones, than I ever thought possible, especially first thing in the morning. Then there is the matter of memory. I know that I once had a memory, but I can’t always remember when. Finally there is Alzheimer’s and other dementias that seem to be more common as time passes. Kind of depressing, isn’t it?
Studies done in the past few years have shown that there is a way to slow the physical and the neurological effects of aging. Contrary to what some people propose, it doesn’t include taking more growth hormone or eating some culturally strange things. It does take effort, however.
What is this magical fountain of youth? Exercise, or “activity”, if you prefer. Walking, even strolling, for 30-60 minutes three times weekly; working on balance; lifting weights or using a resistance band; any and all of these can improve how our muscles work. By working better, there is less pain from arthritis. We have all heard the expression: “Use it or lose it.”
Not only does exercise improve physical capabilities, it has been shown to decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s, even in those with the gene for Alzheimer’s, and possibly improve memory. The catch: the study focused on people who were more fit in their middle age years (40-50 year olds). These folks were less likely to develop dementia in their middle 60s, or later. Think of it, a benefit that lasts for at least 20 years. Cool.
Is it too late to improve physically? Never!
Keeping active, including gardening or any FUN activity, can decrease the possibility of heart failure, respiratory problems, cancer and diabetes.
As always, ask your doctor or medical professional BEFORE you start exercising. As I have written before, none of us are as young as we used to be and sometimes our expectations of our abilities does not reflect our actual capabilities. It doesn’t do you any good to exercise like you did twenty years ago, only to find yourself too sore to move or, worse, in the local emergency room. The point of increased activity is to become healthier, not dead or near dead.
With the variety of activities available, especially online (think YouTube), there is no reason to be miserable.
Think walking is boring? Take an audio book to listen to while you walk.
Want to move faster? Listen to music with a faster beat. Regardless of your age, there have been great songs around since the Andrews Sisters recorded the “ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Like social activities? Dancing is always good. Some gyms offer “Silver Sneakers” classes, which might be reimbursed by insurance and provide general conditioning exercises which can be done standing or sitting.
Research has shown that there is more to lose if you don’t “use it” than losing muscle function. You could lose everything.