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Exercise & The Elderly

Exercise has long been touted as important for everyone in all walks of life, not just for the elderly.  Even as far back as the Victorian Era, people were encouraged to take a “daily constitutional” for their health.  In America, especially, this has been taken to an extreme in the past few decades.  Since many Americans tend to have a “go big or go home” mindset, people feel as though they must have a very intense fitness program laid out for themselves in order to remain healthy.  While this may be okay for some age groups, the elderly are probably not able to benefit from a program like this because of physical limitations, as well as lower energy levels.  But, that does not mean that they will not benefit from exercise that is appropriate.

Appropriate exercise for the elderly will vary based on abilities & limitations, but every person should be able to find areas that they can work on in order to keep their bodies physically fit.  Below, you will find a few ideas to get you started in the right direction.

-Mobility/Range of Motion.  Whether you're sitting down or standing, do certain stretches that focus on increasing your mobility.  Do reaches, bends, & turns while focusing on increasing your abilities from time to time.  Don't overdo it, but challenge yourself a little bit.  Over time, small increases will make a big difference and it will help you to maintain mobility instead of losing it.

-Strength. Now is not the time of life to start intense weight lifting, but a bit of resistance on your muscles can increase muscle mass, as well as strengthening bones.  Both of these things are good for people who are aging.  It's not necessary to get expensive weights to tote around.  If you're new to it, using household items like canned vegetables or milk jugs can be just as effective while you're building up.  You may want to consider getting a resistance band that you can use while sitting in a chair to increase strength.

-Stretching.  Stretching can be helpful to your muscles & ligaments to keep the loose & relieve pain.  It can also help to protect you from injury.

-Natural Movements.  Many other countries have long known that one of the best forms of exercise is just to stay mobile by doing natural things & continuing to do them into old age.  In many Asian countries, very elderly people sleep on a mat on the floor & do so their entire lives.  They sit on the floor & get up to a standing position without aid or tremendous pain.  This is nearly unheard of in American culture, and it is due in part to the fact that we cease challenging ourselves in this way in older age.  If you are interested in these types of exercises, there are a variety of videos available on www.YouTube.com.  It is amazing to feel the difference after such seemingly simple exercises.

Fitness does not have to be complicated to be effective.  A simple walk through the garden or around the block can be just enough to give you a new perspective on life & keep you active.  Start small & don't overdo it, but challenge yourself to what you know you CAN do.  It will reward you with a healthier life!

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