by Sherrin Griffin, Sidney SeniorCare –
Aging is a funny thing … I’m sure I’m not the first to wonder at the irony of how our bodies seem to break down while our experience and wisdom ramps up. If only we could age in reverse like the cinematic “Benjamin Button,” with our body getting younger with each passing year.
Many of us notice the first real signs of aging as we approach middle age. I, for one, have walked upstairs in my own house countless times with the sole purpose of getting something, only to forget what that “something” was upon arrival. Not to mention, the seemingly simple task of climbing stairs now brings out aches and pains that are beyond disturbing.
As a competitive gymnast, exercise was a huge part of my young life, and because I worked out so diligently back then, I assumed I was all set to sail through the rest of life unscathed by the physical ailments that plagued others. Boy, was I wrong: after my gymnastics career ended, I exercised sporadically, at best, and now have the residual cramped muscles and stiff joints from years of neglect. We didn’t fully understand back then how critical regular exercise was for achieving and maintaining optimum health into our senior years.
We’ve since learned that the benefits of regular activity at ANY age can’t be denied, and studies show that there are more reasons than ever to keep moving as the years go by:
Disease Prevention. Extensive studies show that consistent physical activity, even light exercise, can help prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and boosts our immune system, especially important for seniors. Exercise also improves strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, helping to avoid falls which can be catastrophic for the elderly.
Improved Mental/Cognitive Health. Regular exercise increases “feel good” endorphins, lifts depression and increases happiness. Studies link physical activity to better sleep quality, which tends to decline as we age, and improved cognitive function including a lower risk of dementia.
Social Engagement. Joining a walking group or exercise class not only benefits seniors physically, but adds much-needed social stimulation and sense of being part of a greater community.
The secret formula for achieving better overall health, well into our senior years, is not complicated – the key is to simply move
on a regular basis. Walk, stretch, dance … live life with movement. And if you can possibly incorporate the outdoors into your regular activity, that’s even better. Interestingly, some of the current trends harken back to our ancestral roots: walking in groups, forest bathing, earthing, yoga. Focused on a hunting and gathering lifestyle, lack of movement was never an issue for our early ancestors, and in less modern civilizations today seniors are moving easily and comfortably, many still highly active well into their 80s and even 90s.
Looking for inspiration? Someone once told me the story of a friend who ran into Sir Paul McCartney down in California. Where did she spot him? Well, the funny thing is, he was upside down in a yoga studio, looking quite comfortable in headstand posture. The shocking part – he was in his mid 70s at the time and he apparently still does them today.
While the headstand may seem a lofty challenge, our bodies are designed to move, no matter our age. Even gentle exercise will go a long way towards greater health and wellness into our senior years.