HomeNewsStrength for Healthy Aging: adding life to your years not just years to your life.

Strength for Healthy Aging: adding life to your years not just years to your life.

-by Kristin Williams, PTA; Orange City Area Health System Physical & Occupational Therapy I have the privilege of working with our senior community and enjoy seeing how exercise benefits all ages — even those well into their 90s. Whether it’s getting up from a chair, going up and down stairs, getting in and out of a car, going for a walk, or playing with the grandkids — staying physically strong and active is key to maintaining our independence and being able to engage in those activities we love! We all know it’s important to exercise and how essential it is for a healthy lifestyle, but it is even more beneficial as we age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people 65 years and older are the fastest growing demographic. However, while our years may be increasing, so do the challenges we face. We may be living longer, but are we living better? Making the choice to exercise, especially as we get older, will have a huge impact on how we live. Exercise, with proper nutrition will significantly reduce cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and various cancers. In addition, exercise improves muscle and bone strength, endurance, cognition and mood, sleep, weight control, reduces pain, arthritis, and prevents falls. When we look at the correlation between strength and health as we age, we see that its role is vital. Strength is one of the most significant factors related to our independence and our ability to perform activities. Studies show when we are sedentary, we can lose 3-8% of our muscle mass each decade, after age 30. However, we are capable of retaining our strength well into our later years — but we do need to work at it. Weakness does not have to be part of aging. Strength training is an effective form of exercise that uses resistance to build muscle and strength by using bands, weights, or even our own body weight. It can be performed regardless of our mobility and can be done anywhere. To optimize our body’s potential and enhance all aspects of life, it is best to include strength training as a regular part of our routine. If you are hesitant about exercise or have experienced illness, injury or pain that has prevented you from being active, seek help to get you started and moving again. A physical therapist can teach you simple ways to exercise safely and correctly, whatever your age or abilities, they can put together a program that’s right for you. It may only take a few short sessions to get you on the path to healthy living. Tips for getting started:
  • Always check with your doctor first, especially if you have any underlying health concerns.
  • Choose an activity you enjoy (walking, biking, running, swimming, dancing). You will be more likely to stick with it — consistency is the key.
  • Set a specific goal for yourself and write it down. Then you will see what you’ve accomplished.
  • Recruit a partner for accountability and encouragement.
  • A well rounded exercise program should include aerobic activity, strength training and stretching for flexibility.
• Include functional exercise moves like squats and lunges that will carry over to your daily life tasks.
  • Work up to the recommended 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate intensity exercise (increase breathing and heart rate), with at least 2 of those days being strength training.
• If you’re just starting, try increments of 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a day A little progress each day adds up to big results.
  • Find out what your community offers to help you meet your wellness goals.
An outdoor rec area, trikes, and and nature-rich path enhance life on our Senior Care Campus.