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Physical Fitness

What is the effect of physical exercise on health?
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said that, all parts of the body if used in moderation develop and age slowly, but if they are left unused they become defective in growth, susceptible to disease and age quickly. Physical exercise and activity is a pre-requisite for a healthy life.
Exercise also confers on the elderly, a sense of purpose and achievement. They come to realise that they have more control over their bodies than they imagined. Exercises have a beneficial effect on the course and severity of many diseases.
  • The Heart: Regular exercise can prevent the development of high blood pressure. Low BP can also be raised. High cholestrol levels which are a major risk factor in heart attack and stroke are reduced by regular exercise. Heart attack is more common in those with sedentary habits.
  • Diabetes: The effective treatment of this disease is influenced by the obesity of an individual. Loss of weight helps prevent and treat diabetes. Mild diabetes is often controlled by diet and exercise which is much preferred in the elderly rather than management by drugs.
  • Fractures: As one grows older the bones become weak and brittle, especially in women after menopause. This and other age related changes make the elderly prone to falls. Regular physical exercise, not only increases the muscle tone but also helps the bones retain calcium and remain strong, reducing the incidence of fractures.
  • Cancer: Studies have shown that cancer of the large intestines is greater in those who are not physically active. Similarly, breast cancer and cancer of the sex organs rarely affects sportswomen.
  • Constipation: Daily physical exercise combined with a high fibre diet can help avoid constipation.
  • Mental Depression: Exercise increases the blood circulation in all parts of the body promoting a general sense of well-being. While exercising, people tend to take their minds off personal and psychological problems and thus avoid anxiety and depression.
What are the types of exercises that can be performed by the elderly?
It is the constitution of the individual rather than the age that decides the type of exercise that one can do. Exercises maybe:
Aerobic exercise: This is vigorous exercise that produces  a heart rate of 60-70% of one's maximum. It strengthens the cardio-vascular system. It includes, jogging, cycling, skipping and swimming. The heart becomes stronger and the person is able to perform the same amount of physical activity with less effort. It is done three times a week in 15 to 60 min. sessions.It includes a 3-5 min warm-up and cool down.
But Aerobic exercise should be done only after taking advice from a physician.
The best form of aerobic exercise for the elderly is walking. They could walk for about 30 mins or 3-5 kms a day.
Low-intensity exercise: This places less stress on the heart but plays an important role in maintaing and improving the health of a person especially for bone mineralisation, joint flexibility and weight control. It includes, stretching and light calisthenics.Yoga and pranayama and other traditional methods of physical discipline can also be put into this category. Even walking, if perfomed with less vigour can be put into this category.
The difference between the two types of exercise is not absolute. The same form of exercise when performed with different intensities can be classified differently.   
For an Effective Exercise Routine Click Here
Should an elderly person exercise?
Whether you're 40 or 60 years old, you can exercise and improve your health. Physical activity is good for your heart, mood, and confidence. Exercising has even helped 80 and 90 year old people living in nursing homes to grow stronger and more independent. Older people who become more active including those with medical problems, may feel better and have more energy than ever before.
Aren't older people too weak to exercise?
Many older people think they are too old or too frail to exercise.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Staying physically active is key to good health well into later years. Yet very few people exercise regularly. Physical activity of any kind from heavy-duty exercises such as jogging or bicycling to easier efforts like walking is good for you. Vigorous exercise can help strengthen your heart and lungs. Taking a brisk walk regularly can help lower the risk of health problems like heart disease or depression. Climbing stairs, calisthenics, or housework can increase your strength, stamina, and self-confidence. Weight-lifting or strength training is a good way to stop muscle loss and slow down  bone loss. Your dally activities will become easier as you feel better.
How does regular exercise help the elderly?
Regular, active exercise such as swimming and running, raises your heart rate and may greatly reduce stiffening of the arteries. Stiff arteries are a major cause of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
People who are physically active are less likely to develop diabetes, or they can control it better if they do have it. Exercise increases the body's ability to control the blood glucose level.
Regular activity, such as walking or gardening, may lower the risk of severe intestinal bleeding in later life by almost half.
Strength training, like lifting weights or exercising against resistance, can  make bones stronger, improve balance, and increase muscle strength and mass. This can prevent or slow bone-weakening osteoporosis, and  may lower the risk of falls, which can cause hip fractures or other  injuries.
Strength training can lessen pain in arthritis. It doesn't cure arthritis, but stronger muscles may ease the strain and therefore the pain.
Light exercise may be good for your mental health.
What are the important suggestions regarding exercise for the elderly?
  • Exercise is better performed early in the morning or in the evening.
  • It should not be done on a full stomach
  • People who have followed a sedentary or quiet lifestyle should begin an exercise program slowly.
  • It is not important how quickly one advances to a higher level of fitness. Becoming fit eventually and maintaining that fitness is what matters.
  • A slow and easy start can avoid musculo-skeletal injuries. Be sure to thoroughly warm up before beginning and cool down gradually by stretching, appropriate to the exercise. This is very important to prevent cramping and other discomforts.
  • Choose activities that you like.
  • Be realistic about what you can do.
  • Exercising in a group is better than doing it alone because it makes it a social event and encourages continuous participation.
  • One has to consult a doctor before starting an exercise program. Also stop and check with your doctor right away if you develop sudden pain, shortness of breath, or feel ill.
  • Choose your method of exercise carefully! Make sure it is suitable for your body type. Avoid high-impact events. Certain exercises should not be performed when people have certain diseases. For eg:. people with diabetic retinopathy should not perform exercises that involve bending forward too much or standing on their head. People with weak heart should not perform strenuous exercise. Those who have had a heart attack cannot perform any exercise other than walking for a certain period after recovery.
  • Be very certain to remain hydrated by continuously drinking water supplemented with vitamin C and electrolytes while exercising.
  • Even those confined to bed should have some kind of physical activity or atleast physiotherapy to avoid bedsores, chest infection, loss of strength of bones, constipation and depression.
For Simple Exercises and Exercise Regimens Click Here







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Regular Physical exercise is invaluable to the elderly.

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Aerobic exercise is good for you - but take your Doctor's advice.

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Simple household chores are a good form of exercise.

For Exercises & Exercise Programs Click Here

What does regular exercise do for you?
Slows the aging process
Helps you look and feel better.
Increases your stamina and energy.
Strengthens your bones to fight osteoporosis.
Improves your muscle tone, strength, and endurance.
Keeps joints, tendons, and ligaments more flexible, and promotes easy, unrestricted movement.
Increases the efficiency of your heart and lungs.
Decreases your blood pressure and resting heart rate so your heart does not have to work as hard.
Increases your sense of balance and agility, lessening the likelihood of injuries from falls or accidents.
Improves your digestion and bowel movements.
Psychological benefits of physical activity:
Improved self-image, sense of self-reliance, and independence.
Decreased stress and tension.
An overall sense of well-being.

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Click Here for
A Wonderful Exercise Regimen
From the National Institute of Aging.

Exercise by Elders Myths & Realities

Role of Exercise in Controlling Diabetes
Role of Exercise in managing Osteoporosis
Role of Exercise in dealing with Parkinson's