AGE IS NOT THE ENEMY. INACTIVITY IS.
Inactivity changes who we feel we are: Something really insidious starts to happen the less we do. The longer we sit the less we WANT to do. Extended inactivity affects our personality. The more inactive we are the more the doors and windows of our mind close. Our world gets smaller. Fewer things are possible. We believe more of the myths about aging. We believe we are going down hill and there is nothing we can (or want to) do to change that.
And we get really stubborn about it.
This may be the reason why in my observation 90% of the seniors in group residences remain inactive despite the fact that much is known about the huge benefits of regular exercise. Even though falls can be reduced dramatically, a majority of elders still believe that falls are an inevitable aspect of aging and that nothing can be done about it. Falls still make up a huge share of our country's total medical cost. People are falling as much as ever...because as we get older, we sit more. At first, sitting is restful. But it doesn't take long before the body starts to stiffen along with a host of other unappetizing reactions.
If it is difficult to stand up after sitting on the sofa watching TV, it is not because you are getting old. It is because you sat too long.
Each hour of extended sitting reduces blood flow to the extremities by as much as 50%. 5 minutes of movement an hour reverses the effect.
- Our core weakens. When the core is weaker the body is less supported, particularly the spine. Compression on tender spinal joints then has a bigger impact exacerbating or creating problems like sciatica, spinal stenosis, arthritis of the spine.
- Our body stiffens particularly the leg and spine joints.
- The muscles at the back of the legs shorten and tighten producing leg cramps, difficulty walking and foot problems like plantar fasciitis.
- Posture worsens. The shoulders roll forward, the back of the neck shortens and tightens, and the ribcage compresses down making breathing shallower.
- Circulation worsens. Each hour of extended sitting reduces blood flow to the feet by as much as 50%. Health declines when circulation worsens.
- Toxicity persists longer in the body. As we sit inactive, our normal body functions slow. As a result the toxins produced as a natural effect of eating and breathing are expelled at a slower pace, remaining in our body longer. Excess toxicity often displays as feelings of irritability.
- Extended sitting causes us to feel tired and sluggish. It seems like a paradox as does the reverse. Doing something gives us energy.
- Depression increases.
- We fall more.
- And worst of all, inactivity changes who we think we are and what think we are capable of doing.
The benefits of consistent exercise:
- Increases strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.
- Reduces foot shuffling, therefore lowering fall risk substantially.
- We learn how to walk much more easily.
- Reduces pain and inflammation in arthritic joints.
- Reduces or eliminates lower back pain.
- Heals injuries.
- Reduces dizziness.
- Improves stabiity.
- Improves posture.
- Increases energy level.
- Increases self confidence and appearance.
- Reduces the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis, neuropathy, Parkinson's, rotator cuff injuries, back pain, effects of stroke and depression.
- ABOVE ALL, EXERCISE PREVENTS FALLS.
Do not settle for an inactive life. You don't have to feel that life is an endlessly downhill struggle. Get the boost of energy you've been dreaming of. Put a spring back in your step. Get your confidence back. Get your life back! Don't believe the myths about aging. You can get stronger and more flexible no matter how old you are or how old you feel. You really do not have to do much to reverse the effects described above. But you do have to take action and get more active.
One activity is especially helpful if you are fearful of falls. Excellent balance training is available that teaches you how to prevent having falls while at the same time improving your balance skills, self confidence and overall fitness. Building Better Balance was designed for that purpose.
- "Just 40 percent of older adults (those over 65) take part in regular physical activity. Physical inactivity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and premature death. It is associated with many social and environmental factors as well, including low educational attainment, socioeconomic status, violent crime, and poverty. Physical inactivity is responsible for an estimated $24 billion in direct medical costs and almost 200,000, or 1 in 10, deaths each year...The prevalence of physical inactivity among adults aged 65 and older varies from less than 22.0 percent in Oregon, California and Colorado to more than 36.0 percent in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Nationally, 28.7 percent of seniors are physically inactive." For more see: American's Health Rankings.
- "The three-year survival rate among active 85-year-olds turned out to be about three times higher than the rate for their inactive peers...those who exercised also reported less depression and loneliness and a greater ability to perform daily tasks." SixWise.com.
- Kaiser Permanente reports the following benefits from 30 minutes of exercise daily, (Member Bulletin Summer 2008):
50% reduction in the risk of recurrent breast cancer.
60% reduction in the risk of colon cancer.
40% reduction in risk of developing heart disease.
50% reduction in incidence of diabetes.
50% reduction in incidence of high blood pressure.
As effective at reducing depression as taking Prozac.
- Each additional exercise class that you add per week reduces the risk of developing depression by 50%. That benefit persists if even if you take 5 classes per week and add a 6th.