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Why is physical activity important for seniors? Repost from Seniors Matter

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This is a repost from Muriel Cole of Homeports in Chesterton, Maryland

Originally posted in her column Senior Matters -By Guest Columnists Eric Fitch and Jennifer Koch

The new year is a good time for a primer on types of exercise and the resulting benefits. I have asked professionals Eric Fitch and Jen Koch to give us a summary based their years of experience with seniors. Muriel Cole

Exercise and physical activity are an integral part of physical and mental health. Being physically active allows you to do the things you love and enhances your ability to stay independent as you age. Health experts agree that regular physical activity over extended periods of time produces long-term health benefits. Additionally, regular exercise and physical activity reduces your risk of developing certain diseases and disabilities as we grow older. In some cases, exercise can serve as part of an effective treatment plan. Research shows that regular exercise can help manage or prevent arthritis, heart disease, breast and colon cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, loss of strength, balance problems and/or difficulty walking.

It’s all about you!

The benefits you gain from physical activity will depend on your starting point and how much effort you put in. Some individuals may be able to jog five miles, while walking for five minutes may be challenging for others. Do not to compare yourself to anyone! It is crucial to match your physical activity to your own needs and capabilities. We are all exercising because we care about our future!

Which type of exercise should I choose?

Exercise generally falls into one of four main categories: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. However, some exercises will incorporate more than one category; for example riding a bicycle uses all four.

Endurance

Endurance–or aerobic–activities increase your respiration and heart rate, therefore improving the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. These activities help keep you healthy, improve your fitness, manage or lose weight, and maintain your ability to do the things you enjoy. Examples of endurance activities include: walking, yard work, dancing, jogging, swimming, bicycling, hiking, climbing stairs, and tennis.

Strength

Improving your strength is often referred to as resistance training. Similar to endurance exercises, resistance training increases your breathing and heart rate and has many of the same benefits as endurance activities. However, the main benefit to resistance training is to help maintain one’s ability for everyday activities such as climbing stairs, carrying groceries or a load of laundry, playing with a grandchild, and using the bathroom.

Balance

Our balance naturally decreases as we age, but with appropriate exercises we can combat and even reverse loss of balance. Balance exercises help improve posture and quality of walking. Balance is also important for many everyday activities such as climbing stairs. These exercises help reduce the risk of falling and fear of falls, which is a common problem in older adults that can lead to debilitating injuries or even death. Balance exercises can be completed as often as you like and include standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walk, grapevine walk, and yoga.

Flexibility

Stretching can help your body stay flexible and limber, which will also help improve balance. Increased flexibility will increase your range of motion during both regular physical activity and everyday activities. You can increase your flexibility through exercises such as yoga and strength training, or by obtaining a stretching program from a fitness professional.

 

Eric Fitch, is a graduate of Towson University with a B.S. in Physical Education. Eric is also a Certified Personal Trainer, group fitness instructor, orthopedic exercise specialist, and lifestyle and weight management consultant through the American Council of Exercise. Eric and his partner Jennifer Koch (Certified Personal Trainer, Pilates instructor, and nutritionist) are the owners of Physically Fitch in Chestertown (eric@physicallyfitch.com).

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