Olga Kotelko, a resident of West Vancouver, lived until her mid-90s, throwing a javelin and competing in senior’s track and field events. Was her longevity a result of regular physical activity? Let’s explore what research says about our physical body, exercise and aging.
Why should we start or continue exercise at the age of 65 or older?
The aging process is known to reduce our physical capacity and threaten our independence. Exercise helps slow age related physical change.
What are the risks?
Clinical trials have shown the universal benefits of exercise, however it does not come without some risks. The most common are musculoskeletal injury and cardiac events. Fortunately, these events can be prevented with proper training techniques and support through a personalised program created by a qualified kinesiologist, exercise medicine specialist or exercise physiologist.
Keys to reducing risk and enjoying exercise
The general risk for heart disease and subsequent cardiac events can be reduced with regular, moderate exercise, but be aware that cardiac events can also be triggered with high intensity exercise. It’s important to know how to measure your personal limitations.
Knowing how to measure intensity is key in reducing risk and enjoying the benefits of exercise.
Walking is a beneficial form of exercise for all ages, so let’s use it as an example. When walking, ask yourself, “Out of 10, how difficult does this exercise feel?” Moderate intensity will fall between a self-perceived rating of five to seven. Your kinesiologist can teach you how to measure your self-perceived exertion to reduce risk.
What is the right amount of exercise for me?
At a minimum, seniors should set a goal of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity, aerobic exercise and two sessions per week of muscle strengthening activities. Daily stretch and balance practices are also highly recommended.
What does it look like?
Winett, Williams, and Dacy (2009) suggest that we are underestimating the value of strength exercise, and reported that only 10-15% of adults over 55 perform strength based exercise regularly. Strength based exercises can be performed almost anywhere with limited equipment. It makes a cost effective and efficient way to reap major health benefits including fall prevention, bone and muscle mass maintenance/gains, blood sugar control and more.
SQUAT TO STAND
Using a chair or bench, position your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead. Slowly lower yourself down, bending at the knees until your buttocks touch the chair. Then, press up into a standing position, drawing hips forward. Aim for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
WALL PUSH UPS
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at shoulder height (or just below). Stand with your body weight at a slight angle to wall. Slowly bring your chest to the wall, maintaining a straight spine. Breathe out and bend your elbows. Breathe in and press away until your arms are fully extended.
Is it too late to start?
A recent study published by the JAMA network (2009) has shown that it’s never too late to commit time to exercise.
Adults who exercise consistently over their lifetime, and continue to exercise four or more times per week between the ages of 70 to 78 improve their survival rate by 10 years. And those between the ages of 70 to 78 who start to exercise and progress to four or more times per week nearly match the 10 year survival rate. Adults between the ages of 85 to 88 also reap the rewards of an improved survival rate.
Bottom line? It’s never too late to start or improve your exercise routine – see your Kinesiologist for a personalized program.