For baby boomers and older adults, the secret is out of the bag! One of the best ways to stay healthy, stay strong, and stay alive longer is to engage in physical activity. In fact, according to Robert N. Butler, MD, former director of the National Institute of Aging, “If exercise could be packed in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”
35 and Counting
And why is that? Regular physical activity and exercise help prevent 35 chronic health conditions, including:
- coronary heart disease
- type 2 diabetes/insulin resistance/prediabetes
- accelerated biological aging and premature death
- and many more
Unfortunately, 95% of adults in the US do not meet the minimum guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous cardiovascular exercise per week and twice-weekly strength training). So the vast majority of folks over 50 are not taking advantage of this safe, effective “fix.”
Exercise creates a (beneficial) stress on the body. Here’s a primer on how it helps protect against 3 major diseases.
- Heart disease
Chronic adaptations to exercise include increased blood volume, more efficient heart beats, increased size of left ventricle (which pumps blood out of the heart), and decreased resting heart rate (a higher resting heart rate–“normal” being 50-70 beats/minute–may be associated with increased risk for heart attack).
Net effect: The heart is stronger, thickness of blood is reduced, and more oxygen is delivered to active skeletal muscles; blood pressure is lowered in borderline to moderately hypertensive individuals.
Muscle tissue uses glucose for energy. As a result of exercise, muscle cells are more sensitive to insulin, and they can take up higher levels of glucose at a faster rate compared to the amount at resting.
Net effect: Less insulin is needed for glucose use in muscles, which decreases insulin resistance (a hallmark of diabetes). With insulin working efficiently, blood sugar (glucose) levels decrease.
As we grow older, our brains go through natural changes: we can’t process information as quickly and parts of our memory start to decline, as does our ability to make decisions. With dementia (not a normal part of aging), a greater deterioration happens in memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia. AD leads to personality changes, a slow destruction of brain health, and eventually, the decreased ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily life. Exercise, on the other hand, increases blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the brain. It also helps protect against many of the diseases that often accompany AD: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Physical activity increases the production of special proteins in the brain that can stimulate new connections between brain cells, generate new brain blood vessels, and produce new brain cells (“neuroplasticity”).
Net effect: Regular physical activity, especially cardiovascular, can help protect the brain. It slows rates of mental decline, and helps rebuild brain cells and vital connections between these cells.
For additional ideas to stay active and healthyt, give me a call!
We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for your friends or family.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that—oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.
Lisa Teresi Harris is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer, and author of the book Building Your Enduring Fitness. A certified Geri-Fit Instructor, she helps Boomers and seniors to regain and keep muscle strength, mobility, and energy.
Contact Lisa to inquire about a customized, in-home fitness program for you or a loved one.