Mak­ing a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to ex­er­cise


Roughly 80 per­cent of adults are not en­gag­ing in enough phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to reach the pre­scribed guide­lines. Re­search has shown that a seden­tary life­style is a ma­jor fac­tor for se­ri­ous ad­verse health con­di­tions such as high blood pres­sure, heart dis­ease, stroke, obe­sity, choles­terol is­sues, meta­bolic syn­drome, di­a­betes, can­cer and de­pres­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle “Do You Even Lift, Grandma? Why Older Adults Should Be Mak­ing Gains. It’s More Than Just Bro Sci­ence” by Robin Seaton Jef­fer­son, pub­lished Oct. 15 in Forbes, “In 2008 there were 5.3 mil­lion deaths world­wide caused by a lack of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity out of the 57 mil­lion deaths world­wide.”

Jef­fer­son found a 2016 study in the Na­tional Health In­ter­view Sur­vey that re­vealed “adults 65 years and older who strength trained twice a week had a 46% lower mor­tal­ity rate and that strength train­ing re­duces all causes of death, in­clud­ing can­cer and car­diac death.”

In a Nov. 21 ar­ti­cle in The New York Times, “Reg­u­lar Ex­er­cise May Keep Your Body 30 Years ‘Younger” by Gretchen Reynolds, the mus­cles of 70-year-old men and women who have ex­er­cised for decades are as­ton­ish­ingly sim­i­lar to those of healthy 25 year olds.

Reynolds cited an Au­gust 2018 study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy that found “the mus­cles of the older ex­er­cis­ers re­sem­bled those of young peo­ple, with as many cap­il­lar­ies and en­zymes as theirs, and far more than in the mus­cles of the seden­tary el­derly.”

In this study, the older ex­er­cis­ers had the car­dio­vas­cu­lar health of peo­ple 30 years younger than them­selves. Reynolds con­cluded, “These find­ings about mus­cu­lar and car­dio­vas­cu­lar health in ac­tive older peo­ple sug­gest that what we now con­sider to be nor­mal phys­i­cal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion with aging may not be.”

On Oct. 24, Gretchen Reynolds in The New York Times wrote “Even a 10-Minute Walk May Be Good for the Brain,” which cites a study pub­lished in Septem­ber in Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences. For Reynolds, the ef­fects of ex­er­cise and mem­ory were clear: par­tic­i­pants “were bet­ter at re­mem­ber­ing im­ages af­ter they had rid­den the bike and the harder their mem­o­ries had to strain, the bet­ter they per­formed af­ter the ex­er­cise.”

The Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion rec­om­mends at least 150 min­utes of mod­er­ate ex­er­cise per week, but it’s a good idea to do more if you can. Ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian K. Roberts, Ph.D., ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist of the Gerofit pro­gram at the Greater Los An­ge­les VA Health Care Sys­tem, “although it de­pends on many fac­tors, many older adults ben­e­fit from at least one hour per day of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.”

Roberts goes on to say, “you want to do car­dio — such as jog­ging, bik­ing or swim­ming — as well as strength train­ing, like lift­ing weights or us­ing re­sis­tance bands. Strength train­ing helps build mus­cle mass, which is es­pe­cially key be­cause it’s com­mon for older adults to lose mus­cle.”

You should talk to your doc­tor be­fore be­gin­ning an ex­er­cise pro­gram. If you are un­sure where to ex­er­cise, or how to get started, it is a good idea to con­tact a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist or cer­ti­fied per­sonal fit­ness trainer in your area.

Guest colum­nist Eric Fitch is the owner and op­er­a­tor of Phys­i­cally FITch in Chester­town. Fitch is cer­ti­fied through the Amer­i­can Coun­cil on ex­er­cise as a Per­sonal Fit­ness Trainer, Group Fit­ness In­struc­tor, Health Coach, Or­tho­pe­dic Ex­er­cise Spe­cial­ist and Se­nior Fit­ness Spe­cial­ist.

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