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Elder Exercise Gets Easier and Easier

We all know that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and that is as true of older adults as it is younger ones if you look at the frightening statistics on the obesity epidemic in America.  Habits developed over the long run tend to be harder to break, but the fact is that appropriate exercise for older adults can get easier and easier just by the simple fact of dong it.  Because the corollary to my first scientific law is that objects in motion tend to stay in motion.  And exercise gets easier.  Doubtful? 

Here are nine reasons:

  1. Starting a new exercise routine may feel clumsy at first, but so did dancing, riding a bike and a lot of other physical work we have all gotten better at with time.  Muscle memory will help, because your body will make new nerve pathways to make your exercise easier with time.

  2. Blood flow improves when you exercise at any age.  The smallest vessels actually can increase in number fueling all parts of your body as your heart rate routinely increases with practice.

  3. We all have seen body builders grow muscles into sculpted works of art.  Well, we do not see the heart, but it gets stronger also with workouts that are even modestly strenuous.  This is true of older adults as well as college athletes.

  4. With the muscle memory and greater cardiac capacity comes increased confidence among elders who exercise.  Physical confidence, in turn, creates greater overall confidence and a sense of “can do.”  Older adults with a regular workout routine also will sleep better.

  5. We have heard from too many fanatics about “no pain-no gain.”  The opposite is, in fact, true.  As an older adult works out over time, the body raises its threshold for working.  With time, an older adult can do more and more without that shortness of breath or even the soreness afterwards.

  6. Take that last one to a higher level, and if the older body begins a regular regimen of moderate exercise, the body’s hormone system will reward it with cocktails called endorphins.  Endorphins are basically a homemade version of morphine to help the body feel better and better.

  7. The power plants in your cells also will begin to grow in number with exercise over time.  You cannot see them, but the mitochondria, as these power plants are called, become more numerous so that your body can burn more carbohydrates and fat to create more energy.

  8. Exercise will encourage better eating habits.  It is true, because a lot of those bad habit foods – comfort foods – are linked to stress, anxiety or even depression.  Since exercise works against these negative emotions, some of the craving for the junk food will ebb as well.

  9. Exercise actually makes a person happier.  Tied to some of what I mentioned in #8, exercise really lifts the spirits, and it does it in part through releasing chemicals called serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  These chemicals can be as effective as some of the drugs often prescribed for depression.

Before you exercise or encourage an elder to exercise, see a doctor to sign off on your fitness to exercise. 

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.,geriatric care manager Chicago, geriatric care Chicago

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