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Exercise Just Might Be the Fountain of Youth
By Craig Thomas, MD
If getting in shape is on your to-do list, here’s some added motivation: physical activity might help turn back the hands of time.
Exercise at any age is beneficial as it helps to maintain weight, control or prevent disease, promote better sleep, strengthen the immune system, and elevate mood. Recent studies suggest exercise may be a key factor in living a longer but also healthier life.
Physical Benefits of Exercise
If there is a silver bullet to slowing down the aging process, it’s exercise. In addition to improving cardiovascular health and endurance, exercise helps us build muscle, improve flexibility, and maintain balance as we age.
Aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling, or swimming helps improve cardiovascular endurance and is an essential form of exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly.
Strength training, which includes activities like biceps and leg curls, will help retain muscle and, in the long run, independence, enabling you to complete simple, daily living tasks as you age.
Our muscles get shorter and tighter over time, so it’s important to stretch to remain flexible and decrease the likelihood of injury. To maintain range of motion, concentrate on stretching all the major muscle groups, with particular attention to the shoulders, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
Regular exercise can also help us improve balance, stability, and coordination as we grow older. Yoga, tai-chi, walking, dancing, high-intensity interval training, and strength training are just some of the types of exercises that can help you stay steady on your feet.
Ways to Ease into An Exercise Routine
It’s never too late to start an exercise routine. However, before you do so, it’s essential to consult your physician first – especially if you lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Your doctor can advise what types of exercise may be most beneficial.
One way to kickstart an exercise routine is to start by walking. Begin slowly and then ease your way into going faster and for longer distances. Invite a walking buddy to go with you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Set small goals each day and work your way up to a pace that is comfortable for you.
No matter what type of physical activity you engage in – whether it be high-intensity interval training or walking the dog around the block, the point is to make physical activity a regular part of your daily life.