You’re never too old to learn – or to exercise. Exercising as you get older is the most reliable way to enjoy your life, all your life.
If you have been active most of your life, this will come as no surprise. If you have fallen into sedentary ways, you’re never too old — or too young — to start exercising now.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turned 86 in March 2019. She works out with her personal trainer twice a week for one hour. She has done this for 18 years. If she can do it so can you!
While RBG is inspirational, she is by no means the only senior reaping the rewards of keeping active well after pensionable age. There’s a whole lot of science behind why exercising is so important and its many benefits as you age.
Read on for the latest findings. You’ll be off that sofa in no time!
Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA)
A 2019 survey of more than 315,000 participants to determine whether there is a link between mortality and LTPA has some good news. The study concluded that maintaining higher levels of physical activity, and increasing such activity in later adulthood is a good thing. In non-scientific lingo, you’re less likely to die sooner.
Another good thing: midlife is not too late to start physical activity. Even if you only start exercising regularly in your 40s (or even 50s), you still have less risk of dying compared to your non-active peers. And you reap the other benefits in old age pretty much in the same way as people who have been working out all their lives.
The bad news for those who are inactive is that they are nearly five times more likely to suffer an early death compared to the most active participants in the study.
Telomeres: the longer they are, the longer your life. There are caps at the ends of strands of DNA called telomeres that are linked to longevity. Exercise in those aged 40 to 64 prevents telomere shrinkage and prolongs life.
Researchers in this study say that it’s unclear whether exercise directly prevents telomeres from shrinking, but they have established a strong link between working out and the genetic markers that are believed to correspond with life span.
In brief, exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases and injuries and helps you maintain your physical and cognitive function. Telomeres shorten with time, and shorter telomeres are usually associated with illness, cancer and other diseases. Exercise prevents telomeres from shortening and therefore prolongs your life.
But enough of the hard science. What about the fun part?
Muscle Mass, Body Fat, and Cholesterol
Maintaining a physically active life means you tend to keep most of your muscle strength, your body fat remains much the same, and your cholesterol level does not increase with age. In other words, you avoid, or minimize, most of the pitfalls commonly associated with getting older.
This means that you enjoy life.
How Can I Enjoy Exercising?
Forget about the pictures of hot, sweaty, muscle-bound folk in crowded gyms. Exercise is a social activity to be enjoyed – just like the rest of your life.
If you’re aged 65 and over, at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or walking, is recommended. You should do this in conjunction with strength exercises on two or more days a week to work all the major muscles. Your major muscles (apart from your brain) are the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
Examples of moderate aerobic activity include:
- water aerobics
- ballroom and line dancing
- riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- playing doubles tennis
- pushing a lawnmower
As you can see, a lot of those activities can be done in the company of others. And you can do them without necessarily thinking about them as exercise. The main thing is to keep that body of yours moving.
Where Can I Enjoy Exercising?
Just as exercise itself is important, it is also important to exercise correctly. A lot of people are a bit unsure about how to exercise properly. That’s why we suggest you join a local club, or community center, where qualified instructors can help you make the most of your abilities.
Physical trainers are aware that everyone has certain physical limitations, and they can work out a low-impact exercise regime that takes into account past injuries, for example.
Many know a lot about exercises for older adults. People who attend such classes normally love them. Because you’re with people roughly the same age as you (or older!), there is no need to feel self-conscious – or even feel older for that matter.
At our local center, there is a group of about six or seven who all go for a cup of tea, or refreshments, after exercise classes. That way, they get to work out and have a bit of conversation afterward.
They are having fun. You can too!
What Else Apart From Fun and a Long Life Is There?
Because exercise improves blood flow to the brain, your brain stays “with it” longer. Studies have shown that with regular exercise you will be less depressed, have a better memory, and even retain the ability to learn quickly and concentrate for longer periods. It is also the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a major fear for many the world over.
We have already mentioned the happiness factor. Exercise triggers the release of in the brain of chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine. These are responsible for dulling pain, lightening mood and relieving stress.
The psychological and emotional benefits of exercising as you get older cannot be overstated.
As You Get Older – Later
Some studies have shown that exercise can lengthen your lifespan by up to five years. That’s to do with the whole telomere story we told you earlier. Exercise appears to slow aging at the cellular level.
Ergo, you stay younger longer.
You Look Younger – For Longer
Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the skin and delivers oxygen and nutrients to it making it healthier. Exercise even helps heal wounds faster.
For the same reasons that exercise can help you look younger, it can also help you recover from a major illness.
It is now known that exercise is a very effective way to rehabilitate for people recovering from a stroke than any other therapy.
You’ll look younger and thinner because exercise results in fat cells shrinking. Exercising gives you a more efficient and stronger cardiovascular system.
This means that you metabolize more fat as an energy source. Your fat cells shrink – and so does inflammation.
Now Is as Good a Time as Any
You do not have to exercise for very long each day to feel the benefits, get that spring back in your step, feel happier and thoroughly enjoy your life as you get older.
It’s time to get moving – if only to keep up with the Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s of this world. You will be so glad you did. And if you’re already keeping active, feeling incredible and looking fabulous, why don’t you get a friend or two to join you?