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How Regular Exercise Promotes Healthy Aging

Posted by Brooke Grant
healthy aging

Research has repeatedly proven that regular exercise is integral to having a healthy body and mind into old age, preserving physical and mental abilities and preventing illness into advanced years. While physical activity is generally healthy and provides positive benefits, there are a few specific exercises that are particularly effective in maintaining youth and vitality at any age.

  • Preserve your joints. Even ordinary daily activities require bending and reaching, and loss of range of motion strongly contributes to reduced independence and lower quality of life with aging. Focusing on training the muscles and tendons that support the hips and knees will preserve mobility for decades to come.
    • Squats
    • Lunges
    • Single leg bridge
  • Practice your balance. Osteoporosis is an invisible disease, with virtually no symptoms until a bone is broken during a fall. Weakness and loss of balance are commonly associated with old age, but these signs of aging can be easily prevented or delayed with the right exercises.
    • One-legged squat
    • Leg swings
    • Side plank
  • Make time for cardio. Cardio workouts elevate your heart rate and force you to breathe more heavily, which boosts circulation and delivers oxygenated blood to every part of your body. Cardio improves overall health and stamina, while invisibly improving the heart, lungs, brain function, and even mood. A minimum of 150 minutes a week is required to maintain health, but it can be broken down into intervals as short as 10 minutes long. Get moving a few times a day to stay healthy.
  • Get strong. Strong muscles not only help you perform everyday tasks more easily, but weight bearing exercise builds strong bones and prevents osteoporosis. And strong muscles add a layer of protection from falls and impacts, shielding bones and internal organs. Make sure you incorporate strength training at least twice a week.
    • Weight lifting
    • Pushups
    • Yoga or pilates
  • Work out your brain. Exercise that incorporates your brain improves mental function and prevents age-related decline. Exercise not only improves functional memory, but the right activities also keep both hemispheres of the brain communicating effectively, preventing age-related brain delays.
    • Activities that involve learning and recall, like dance, yoga, zumba, or tai-chi
    • Activities that cross the midline of your body, involving one-sided or lateral movements
    • Activities that are new and break a routine
  • High Intensity Interval Training. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of interval training, a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. HIIT is the concept where one performs a short burst of high-intensity (or max-intensity) exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly. High intensity interval training has been the subject of a lot of buzz in recent years, and in 2017 researchers at the Mayo Clinic released a study that shows that HIIT actually reverses the age-related decline in our cells' ability to produce energy. In older adults, HIIT boosted muscle mitochondria by 69%, along with improving heart, lung, and circulation functions. Weight training did not have the same effect on the study group, who gained muscle mass, but without the mitochondrial and respiratory benefits of HIIT.
Regular exercise makes you look and feel better, and now we know it can delay, and even reverse, many health and cognitive problems associated with aging. Building healthy habits now can provide benefits for decades to come, and are an investment in a healthy, independent, positive future.


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