Humans are complex beings of body, mind and spirit. The more integrated we are in these three areas, the more likely we are to have a balanced life. While the spirit is something beyond the physical senses and motor functions, the body and mind are two areas that we can exercise to significantly improve our state of well-being.
We have identified four activities that in combination will enhance your life on so many levels.
Aerobic refers to the presence of oxygen and exercise which increases the delivery of oxygen to the tissues. These activities increase the respiration and the heart rate which enhances respiratory fitness. It has the effect of promoting increased circulation throughout the body, including the brain.
Aerobic exercise burns calories and increases strength. A 2010 study from the Journal of Aging Physiology looked at men between the age of 70 and 80 who were sedentary. They were then put on a program of cycling, three times a week and the result was a significant increase in strength and muscle mass. Aerobic exercise also has a positive impact on the mind as shown by research. During such activity, some chemicals improve cognitive ability but in addition, there is a beneficial effect of delaying or preventing the development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
There are many forms of aerobic exercise such as swimming, running, walking, cycling and dancing. All exercise however, is not equal. For example, moderate swimming burns three times the amount of calories that moderate walking does.
Weight Bearing Exercises
These involve gravitational stress on the body which strengthens not only muscle, but bone. This induces calcium absorption into bone making them stronger. Lack of weight bearing with diminished calcium in bone can lead to osteoporosis. This is a more significant issue as we age.
We know that astronauts who have spent long periods in space come back with osteoporosis due to the depletion of calcium in bone. It is important that we all get some degree of weight bearing exercise. Examples are weight lifting, hiking, yoga, team sports, vigorous cycling, and tennis.
Isometrics are exercises in which a muscle is put into sustained contraction without making a change in a joint. The number of isometric exercises available to us are virtually unlimited. If you were to perform a push up, or sit up in a sustained position, they are both isometric; likewise, if you held a weight in a fixed position for 30 seconds.
The great benefit that we get from isometric exercise is an increase in muscle strength. Another advantage for those in the senior generation is that if there are joint issues such as arthritis, these can be performed without stressing the joint.
Weights, lunges, planks and core Pilates exercises are just a few examples of these powerful strengthening exercises.
While the brain is not a muscle, we can use the analogy of muscles to describe why we need to use our brain. The old age, “Use it or lose it”, applies to both muscles and the brain. Research tells us that when we challenge the mind and use it in new ways, we create new connections between nerve cells. This is the science of Neuroplasticity.
The process of aging results in a decline in muscle mass and brain cells. We can overcome these in both cases. In fact, it is imperative that we keep using our brain. There are many practical things that we can do to keep our brain stimulated. The range of options today is enormous: write a book, learn a language, take up singing, create a website, go back to school, learn a new dance, or work on crosswords or puzzles.
We have no excuse to do something, whatever our age. Many people get into a rut and the longer they stay there the more difficult it becomes to move out of it. We can always move from where we are to a new place that will have a positive impact on our lives. Doing some, if not all these exercises in combination, will not only give you a better state of well-being, but it may likely increase your longevity.
If you are not sure which way to go, check with the medical, chiropractic or exercise experts for direction.
Editor’s Note: Dr Adele Thomas, semi-retired medical doctor, and Dr Ely Lazar, retired chiropractor, are on a new mission as the Passionate Retirees. They are dedicated to inspiring the over 50’s to live fulfilling and adventurous lives, so that “the twilight years will be the highlight years”. Their book, “Travel Secrets For Seniors” was released in early 2014. With more than 80 years combined of professional experience, their articles, books and workshops cover a range of topics from travel, health, relationships, sexuality and finances for seniors. Enjoy their newly released (Oct, 2016) podcast, Passionate Retirees: Life After 50.