The prescription for aging well starts with the opposite advice that you may have heard. You may have heard people advise you to “not sweat the details.” Well, that is good figurative advice, but when it comes to being active the best literal advice is to absolutely break a sweat…often. Daily, vigorous exercise is one of the best medicines you can take. That said, don’t start any new exercise regimen without first consulting your provider. And the added caveat, take a close look at your provider before you consider asking them for this advise. You really do not want to ask the provider who never sets foot on the running path, dips a toe into the lap pool or lifts anything heavier that a pencil about getting into shape.
So, if you are a caregiver to an older loved one…or if you are a caregiver approaching the “golden years” yourself, get a prescription for fitness. Admittedly, everyone starts this process from a different place. Some may already be marathon runners, so the prescription is all about more of the same…or cross-training. If you are not up for 26.2 miles of hard work and endorphins, then a much more modest start would be in order. No matter where you start, your fitness prescription may be just the ticket for avoiding cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis or type 2 diabetes. Consider aerobic exercise to be the first line of preventive medicine for all of these conditions associated with weight or physical decompensation.
Sound too good to be true? The scientific evidence supports the merits of cardiovascular fitness. Dutch researchers studying nearly 3,500 patients for more than four decades found that people who were overweight at age forty lived, on average, three years less than their more fit counterparts. Truly obese individuals had a life span fully six to seven years less than others. In a Dallas University study of men in their early 50’s, researchers found that just six months into a weekly exercise regimen of about 4-5 hours a week, these fifty+ year olds had cardiovascular fitness more like what one would find in twenty-somethings.
If you are convinced, then start now…even if you start small. Just because those fifty+ year old men got into the shape of twenty+ year olds does not mean they did the same exercises or ran as fast or as far as twenty year olds. Beyond a certain age, we are all looking at our persona records as historic – not future – events. But, don’t think of getting old as giving up anything…think of it as gearing up and tuning up!
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to info@cr eativecaremanagement.com.