Everyone ages. Not everyone ages well. The condition that someone is in as he or she ages is partially dictated by genetics, partially by environment, and partially by how well that person takes care of his or her health.
I do not want to discuss genetics and environment in detail. Genetics are something a person can do little about, except try to compensate for. For example, a person with a family history of heart disease will want to be aware of this and modify diet and activity as a preventive measure.
Environment is the area in which a person lives, works, and spends the bulk of his or her time. For example, working as a laborer in an industrial setting can expose someone to chemicals, pollutants, and other hazards that can have an acute or chronic affect on health. This aspect is at least partially within control of the individuals.
Instead of focusing on genetics or pollutants, though these are things all people should consider, I want to cover how activity can benefit the aging process. Exercise for seniors is an increasingly popular topic, and rightfully so, but many people still do not understand the benefit. Here are six ways physical activity benefits the aging process.
- Exercise, particularly resistance exercise, can reverse decreases in muscle mass, allowing a person to maintain or even gain muscle as he or she ages.
- Increases in muscle mass boost metabolism and can slow or reverse the loss of metabolic rate associated with aging.
- The increase in body fat associated with age can be combated through increased activity, such as exercise, due to the increased caloric need as well as the use of muscles, which will promote the body to keep muscle and burn fat.
- Joint stiffness associated with age can be combated through mobility exercises (stretching, working joints through range of motion, etc.)
- Cardiovascular exercise can combat loss of heart strength and overall performance, stalling or reversing related health issues.
- Aerobic capacity can be maintained by performing cardiovascular exercise, thereby improving oxygen delivery to various bodily systems for processes such as energy production, maintenance of cells, etc.
These six ways physical activity benefits the aging process apply to every age. From the time a person can walk, run, and jump as a toddler, that individual can battle the effects of again by continuing to walk, run, jump, and engage in other activity.
For a person how has greatly reduced their activity, the same idea applies to starting to engage in activity again. Whether you are 20, 30 40, 70, or any age between, below, or above, increased physical activity will benefit you in the six ways noted above. Strength exercise and aerobic exercise is beneficial for seniors, and everyone else, as is a focus on mobility.
Did you know?
As a person ages, metabolism slows by 2-10 percent per year, which can lead to weight gain and issues associated with weight gain.
With age, bone density decreases, potentially leading to a higher chance of breaks, pain, and other related issues.
Over time, soft tissue in the body, including muscle, can break down (atrophy), lose elasticity, lose range of motion, lose endurance, and lose strength, among other issues.
These issues can be prevented, minimized, or reversed with proper nutrition and activity such as exercise. Again, this applies at any age. Whether you are 90 today or 19, you can do something to combat age related loss of ability and related issues.
Understanding the cycle of decline
As individuals age, a decrease in activity leads to a breakdown of the body. Environmental factors and additional lifestyle factors can contribute to this decline. Through proper nutrition, activity, and lifestyle change, a person can prevent such decline and, in some cases, reverse the results of said decline.
Nutrition is a key part of the healthy lifestyle. No amount of exercise can outwork a bad nutritional strategy. The things a person consumes supports his or her lifestyle. If a person consumes crap, he or she will not fuel his or her body effectively.
Activity, which includes exercise but is not exercise alone, helps keep a body in good working order. The use of muscles and the various systems of the body, such as the respiratory system, help keep these various parts of the body operating as they should. This maintenance of system abilities helps a person live a fuller, healthier life into the future. Nutrition alone cannot account for this part of the process.
Lifestyle changes, such as changes in habits like smoking, can help stave off the decline of bodily ability. When considering lifestyle changes, one must consider certain environmental factors as well. For example, if a person is regularly exposed to harmful chemicals or other substances at his or her place of employment, this can hasten the decline of the body.
How to start reversing the aging process
This blog is not just about the benefit for exercise programs for seniors, but instead about how nutrtion and activity, including exercise, can benefit senior fitness, youth fitness, and the fitness of people in the middle of their life. Fitness knows no age. Fitness has no age limit.
To live a fuller life in the future and to potentially reverse or at least slow the negative effect of aging, just do something. That might seem simplistic, but every small change makes a difference. If you are not working out, begin working out. If you are not focusing on nutrition, begin focusing on nutrition. If you have not considered how your environment affects your health, start considering it.
Small steps over time equal results. Just doing anything at all is the first step in the right direction. Once you take this first step, keep walking. For example, if you currently workout, then consider increasing activity. If you currently focus on calories and macros, consider your food quality. If you currently pay attention to how your environment affects your health, look at which areas you can do more to improve.
Doing more does not mean the process has to take more time. For example, doing more with a workout may not mean adding more exercises, but instead optimizing the current exercises by improving form, using more load, or by resting appropriately to maximize performance. Apply this idea to nutrition, environment, and other areas, such as stress management.
Your future is in your hands. The choices you make today will create your future. Make decisions that will allow you to be happy and healthy in the future.
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Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science. Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA