"Exercise is a journey, not a destination. It must be continued for the rest of your life. We do not stop exercising because we grow old - we grow old because we stop exercising" - Kenneth Cooper, MD
Dr. Kenneth Cooper is an American doctor who founded the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, USA to promote cardiovascular fitness through exercise in pursuit of good health and longevity. Recognized as the “Father of Aerobics,” Dr. Cooper sets an example for maintaining healthy lifestyle. Even at age 88, he is not stopping. After running thousands of miles before breaking a bone in 2004, he still finds time for exercise with walking and for 50 years, Dr. Cooper has inspired millions across the world to exercise for good health and good life.
Age Doesn’t Matter…
No matter your age, it’s never too late to hit the gym, or the road, and get sweat. Exercise is an important part of everyone’s everyday health, including the older adults. Experts like Dr. Cooper encourage seniors to stay as active as possible to live a longer and healthier life. He revolutionized Aerobics in a mission to promote physical fitness not just for a strong body but also for a sound mind and well-being and to advocate exercise as an enjoyable and a satisfying experience for the young and old alike.
Key Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults
There are countless studies that prove the important benefits associated with exercise, and it becomes more important as we age. The key benefits of exercise for seniors are as follows:
Improved healing and function
Regular exercise by seniors enhances rates of wound healing (Charles et al, 2005). A study shows that exercise speeds up the wound-healing process by as much as 25 percent and can be an important component of health care. It also appears that long-term moderate physical activity may have benefits in terms of fighting off the incidence of infection among older adults for fast recovery from illnesses and injuries (Senchina and Kohut, 2007).
Prevention of disease or chronic conditions
The National Institute on Aging reports that fitness exercises in seniors may delay or prevent chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and arthritis. According to Dr. Cooper's research, a 30-minute exercise several days week can prevent aging related diseases. Based on his study, exercise can reduce fatigue caused by cancer chemotherapy and improves the physical function of a person with Parkinson’s disease.
Improves strength and flexibility
As we age, we lose muscle mass and function due to age-related “sarcopenia,” and physically inactive people like the older adults can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30 (Siparsky, et al, 2014). Regular exercise, specifically aerobic and resistance traininghave been shown to counteract most aspects of this age-related loss. Resistance exercises may be able to increase range of motion of joints of inactive older individuals due to an improvement in muscle strength.
Enhanced balance and stability
Falls are considered as the most common cause of injuries among the older adults. The loss of ability to balance may be associated with higher risk of falling leading to serious health consequences, and exercise is a key component to improve functional reach and balance. A study found that individualized physical activity program improved the postural stability of older people in standing position (Hue, et al, 2004).
Improved quality of life and increased life expectancy
Maintenance of physical activities through exercise has shown to contribute to improving quality of life among older people (Das and Horton, 2012). Studies have shown that seniors who exercise improve not only their physical fitness but experienced psychological benefits as well. Improvements in mental health, emotional, psychological, and social well-being and cognitive function are also associated with regular physical activity.
Types of Exercise for Older Adults
Older adults can benefit from regular exercise and physical activity. Different styles of trainings and areas of fitness are available depending on the desired goal. All challenges the body to work to keep you active, mobile, and feeling great.
- Aerobic Exercises: Endurance exercises induce reduction in the decline in cardiovascular performance associated with aging—increased heart rate and breathing—(Hollmann et al, 2007). Activities for the elderly like walking, biking, hiking or even dancing improve circulation, lung capacity, and heart strength. Aerobics also burns body fat.
- Resistance Exercises: Increase in strength from resistance exercise may help older adults reduce the risk of falling. Resistance training has been shown to significantly increase muscle mass and strength in healthy older adults (Frontera et al, 1990). It slows down muscle fiber and bone density deterioration through the loading effect of muscle contraction.
- Flexibility Exercises: Stretching benefits for older adults include development and maintenance of strength, improving flexibility, and increased circulation. Stretching also brings relief to sore muscles. The goal of a flexibility program is to improve range of motion for functional abilities in activities of daily living with less amount of energy (Garber CE, et al, 2011).
- Balance Exercises: According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, falls remain the leading cause of injuries in elderly population. The older adults need to engage themselves into balance training. A good balance routine added to a regular exercise regimen will help seniors stay strong and mobile with better reaction for fall prevention.
“You can’t outrun aging, but the better shape you’rein, the longer it takes for your age to catch up to you...”
We will all get old, but this should not stop us from enjoying the life ahead. For older adults, it is never too late to start engaging in a regular exercise routine. Dr. Cooper recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to improve the overall well-being and fitness of older patients. Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults suggests that adults aged 65 years and older to exercise at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic training per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.