Research has shown exercise is the best medicine. It can offset age related cellular damage, improve cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and general mobility. Essentially slowing the aging process.
How aging affects the average body:
Our skeletal muscles have decreased aerobic capacity due to circulatory changes.
We lose about 40% of our muscle mass by age 80 due to a variety of factors including inflammatory stress, physical inactivity, and changes in our hormone levels.
With the decreased muscular output, any comorbidities increases the risk for frailty dramatically.
Why does this happen?
Our cells are exposed to damaging effects of inflammation and oxidative stress throughout our lives. This damage (along with other environmental and genetic factors) influences how your body loses muscle mass and bone density, gains fat, and metabolism changes.
Do YOU want to age like the “average” person?
Thankfully, we can change one of the most influential causes of cellular stress and aging.
What is that cause? It's our typically sedentary lifestyle! Regular physical activity helps counteract this and has been shown to be excellent in helping people "age successfully", that is, maintenance of functional independence as long as possible.
How Exercise Helps:
Regular aerobic exercise (brisk walking) has been shown to improve aerobic capacity and endurance. It also is known to decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease, and even decrease pain!
Resistance exercise may be even more powerful! Resistance training (using weights, bands, or even body weight resistance) is an excellent way to improve muscle mass at all stages of life, even the frail elderly! Increasing leg strength is a major factor in decreasing risk for falls and maintaining independent mobility.
Physical exercise is also vital for preventing and slowing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This is because it helps regulate the oxidative stress, helps build new neural connections, and helps remove toxic buildup in the brain.
Exercise also works at a cellular level to protect your DNA, maintain protein homeostasis to allow appropriate enzyme function, improve hormone levels and insulin sensitivity.
So How can I get Started?
The best place to start is by working toward meeting the national guidelines for physical activity in aging adults. These guidelines recommend:
150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity per week
Perform resistance training of most of the major muscle groups 2 days/week
Balance and flexibility exercises 3 days/week
If you currently don’t exercise, these recommendations seem like a lot, but some exercise is always better than none, and as little as 10 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week can start you on the right track.
What if I need help?
If you have specific mobility concerns, are fearful of falling, have pain with activity, or just want some personalized guidance, we can help! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 919-886-4163 to chat with our Physical Therapist, Dr. Tomkoski. We’d love to help you start on your journey toward successful aging!