Seniors staying sharp, fit
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News December 13, 2011 10:08PM
Older adults need at least:
Two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
Or, one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
Or, an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
Source: Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/
Updated: January 15, 2012 8:02AM
Gone are the days when retirement means cloistering ourselves in our homes, lounging in the recliner watching television. Back in the day, a little travel was all many retirees planned for their senior years.
Today, baby boomers are used to living lives filled with activity and friends and exposing themselves to new experiences and sensory inputs, and they don’t want that lifestyle to end just because they are no longer in the workplace.
Their bodies, however, sometimes don’t cooperate with their goals.
With aging, says Morris Hospital wellness specialist Leigh Anne Hall, does come a bevy of health changes, such as the natural loss of muscle tone and flexibility, slower reflexes, weaker bones, and a few other concerns.
However, with all that we know today about keeping healthy, seniors are able to remain active and mobile and happy for longer.
“Healthy aging means you can still feel good and get around and do the things you love as you age,” Hall said. “To do that, it’s important to stay healthy and exercise. The more active you are, the better you will feel.”
Better bodies, better brains
Hall said many seniors keep fit by doing resistance training with bands and tubing at home or by walking, biking or swimming.
There are simple exercises that can be done in the living room that really help strengthen muscles used for balance, she said, such as holding on to a chair while lifting a leg up and holding the leg in the air a few seconds. Side leg lifts are also easy and very beneficial, she added, and even standing while bringing the hands up to the face and touching the nose are good for balance issues.
Exercising is also great for the brain and for staying sharp mentally, Hall added. Recent studies have shown a denser brain mass in those who exercise regularly.
“Studies show that exercise really does help our cognitive functions,” she said, “even if it’s just a few days a week.”
Going to the gym or a senior workout class — Morris Hospital has several offerings — does add the social aspect to exercise.
“It gives them a place to go and a place to belong,” Hall said. “Sometimes after our classes, they go as a group and have coffee. They become friends. When someone’s been gone a couple of days, they call each other to see if everything’s OK … The social aspect of it is really important.”
Volunteering is also a wonderful way for seniors to get out of the house and encounter new situations and people — all part of healthy aging, says Morris Hospital volunteer manager Karen Nowosielski.
She has seen what a big difference it has made in the lives of seniors in her community.
“It does help them keep active with people,” Nowosielski said of volunteering. “It helps them not dwell on the negative things in the world, it contributes to the community, and it helps them to participate in life.”
Volunteering can become a way for seniors to use the problem-solving areas of their brain they developed so well in the working world or when they were younger, she said, as they take on different roles and new situations.
They can use their teaching skills to train new volunteers, use their communication skills to lend an ear to problems patients or visitors are having, and use their comforting skills to ease anxieties.
“It’s good for the soul and good for the mind,” she said.
Nowosielski said her senior volunteers have told her their work there has helped them through difficult situations in their own lives, as well. It fills some of the lonely time many of them may feel while also helping others.
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