Health: Keeping Fit as We Age

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According to one estimate, there are more people in the world today over the age of 65, than the total of all those who previously lived to this age!  And in the United States, the over-85 age group is the fastest growing segment of the population.  Experts in the field of gerontology say that the primary issue among older adults is that of quality of life. With the greater-than-ever life expectancies, just how well will this group function?  Will they spend these years dealing with an assortment of health problems, ailments and chronic diseases, or will they live productive and enjoyable lives?

The effects of time impact all of our basics systems.  The cardiovascular system sees changes a steady decline in the sympathetic nerve system activity to the heart, resulting in a lower maximal heart rate and reduced strength in each contraction.  There is a decrease in the elasticity of the major blood vessels, which can cause a rise in blood pressure. The cardiac muscle itself can become stiff, which leads to a reduction in the pumping efficiency of the heart. Our lungs don’t work as well either.  Because of the various physiological changes in the lungs, especially the integrity of the alveoli, there is an increase in the energy cost of breathing.

The musculoskelatal system also undergoes numerous changes with aging.  Muscle mass declines with age, and does strength.  This leads to loss of mobility, balance problems, walking problems and increased likelihood of falls.  Osteoporosis can result from aging, as our bone mineral content decreases.

A significant portion of what is described above results from non-use and a general lack of physical activity.  The question is: Can exercise slow up the aging process?  The answer is most definitely YES!  Research has shown that you can decrease your cardio- respiratory deterioration by as much as 50% with effective and consistent aerobic training.  This means that a 60-year-old person who is active can be as aerobically fit as a 40-year-old.  Also, seniors who remain active don’t get the typical rise in blood pressure with aging that sedentary people get.  And not only can you slow muscle deterioration; you can actually build muscle mass and increase your flexibility with a good stretching program.

Every minute of everyday, we get older.  There is no magic fountain of youth. However, staying active and setting aside time for formal exercise can make the golden years pleasurable and enjoyable ones. Keeping fit even as we age is another way to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”

Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a LIFESTYLE FITNESS COACH with over 14 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! along with Linda Holtz M.Sc. and is available for private consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at [email protected]  Check out the Lose It! web site – www.loseit.co.il.  US Line: 516-568-5027.

(Alan Freishtat – YWN)