While we often hear about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, too often such information and references are not inclusive of the senior population. With so many Baby Boomers retiring, the medical community is becoming aware of the need for older adults to stay active. Exercise helps maintain mobility and stamina, reduces the incidence of disease and leads to an overall better quality of life.
In my previous article, I spoke of the benefits of dancing for seniors. I was pleased to hear how many people enjoyed the article. For those interested in dance classes, please call the Vail Valley Academy of Dance at 970-926-2820 or Michelle Duncan, who offers Zumba classes, at 970-390-4071. You too can dance your way to health
Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting with physical therapists in our valley to learn what businesses are being proactive in assisting seniors in maintaining their independence by staying physically fit. Fortunately for those here in the valley, there are many resources available. Unfortunately, many are not taking advantage of these resources.
BEING PROACTIVE IS KEY
It is important to be proactive in staying fit as you age. Should you or a senior you know have even the slightest interest in maintaining an elevated level of physical ability, the Vail Valley has many resources to help. Both the Avon and Gypsum recreation centers offer Silver Sneakers Programs, which provide fitness, aquatic, tai chi and other classes. Eagle County’s Healthy Aging program offers fitness classes throughout Eagle County. And for those that may desire a more comprehensive and individualized program, consider calling upon a physical therapists. Medicare often pays for PT with a prescription from a medical provider.
The following comes from an article I published by the American Council on Exercise. It succinctly identifies the benefits of exercise for seniors, saying it has a tenancy to:
• Increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis. As we live longer lives, osteoporosis is affecting an ever-larger number of elderly — becoming one of the major health problems associated with old age. It affects some 20 million women and 5 million men and leads to more than 250,000 hip fractures each year. Exercise delays the onset of osteoporosis by increasing bone strength.
• Improve self-efficiency and maintain independence. One of the top concerns of the elderly is losing control, becoming dependent or a burden to someone. Exercise helps older adults maintain a greater capacity to undertake the activities of daily living.
Increase metabolism. Strength training increases muscle mass, which elevates metabolism. This may also lead to a reduction in overall body fat percentage.
• Maintain balance and improve reflexes to decrease falls. As adults age there is a natural decline in balance and coordination, which can be postponed and even prevented with proper strength and balance training.
• Create a sense of community. Exercise groups enhance social interactions for many older adults who may not otherwise leave their homes. • Improve pulmonary function. Pulmonary function declines with age due to the degeneration of the vertebral disks, which alters the shape of the thoracic cavity. Physical activity, which decreases the amount of vertebral degeneration and increases the strength of the thoracic cavity, may lead to improved pulmonary function.
Boost mood. Exercise reduces the incidence of depression and improves self-esteem while providing a feeling of accomplishment.
• Help prevent and regulate diabetes. Aerobic exercise has shown to be an important means of preventing and treating non-insulin-dependent diabetes by helping regulate blood glucose levels.
• Improve flexibility, joint range of motion and functional movement. Physical activities that require the body to go through the full range of movement helps keep the body flexible and mobile. Circulation is also increased.
• Improve cardiovascular strength. Cardiovascular exercise helps maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system reducing the risk of heart disease. Appropriate physical training has shown improvements in most aspects of cardiovascular functioning.
A combination of social, creative, educational, fitness and health activities will keep seniors physically active and socially engaged, thus often reducing the risk of isolation, loneliness and depression.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.