Haims: Don’t let winter keep you from exercising | VailDaily.com

Haims: Don’t let winter keep you from exercising

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 and importance for older adults to stay active — especially during the winter. Exercise helps maintain mobility and stamina, reduces the incidence of chronic disease, and leads to an overall better quality of life. It also can help balance, mood and overall strength.

Over the past year or so, I have been meeting with many of the physical therapists here in our valley. The purpose of these meetings has been both to learn which of the businesses are being proactive in assisting our seniors to maintain their independence by staying physically fit and to explain to the PTs what we as a company are doing to help those who are our clients stay fit during the winter months. Fortunately for those here in the valley, there are many resources available.

For all the seniors and adult children of seniors that may read this column, one thing I’d like you to take away from it is, “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, our 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 Well and Wise fitness classes throughout Eagle County. And for those that may desire a more comprehensive and individualized program, consider calling upon any of the physical therapists we have here in the valley. Medicare often pays for PT with a prescription from a medical provider.

Maintaining an independent and high quality of life demands being proactive. The following comes from an article I had read published by The American Council on Exercise some time ago. It is my opinion that ACE very succinctly identifies the benefits of exercise for seniors.

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1. 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.

2. To 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.

3. To increase metabolism. Strength training increases muscle mass, which elevates metabolism. This may also lead to a reduction in overall body fat percentage.

4. To 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.

5. To create a sense of community or feeling of belonging. Exercise groups enhance social interactions for many older adults who may not otherwise leave their homes. New friendships are also stimulated during group exercise gatherings.

6. To 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.

7. To boost mood. Exercise reduces the incidence of depression and improves self-esteem while providing a feeling of accomplishment.

8. To 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.

9. To 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.

10. To 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.

Winter should not impede our ability nor desire to exercise. There are many things we can do to safely incorporate exercise and movement into our daily lives. Don’t choose to sit around and get old this winter.

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