Older Adults Live Longer and Enjoy Life More by Beginning an Exercise Program
The average life expectancy in the United States has increased by 30 years since 1900 when the average adult lived to be 47. This average now hovers around 77 years. However, due to a more sedentary lifestyle and the tremendous problem with obesity, experts fear Americans could actually see their life expectancy decline in the future. Many studies demonstrate people of any age can improve their health and live longer by beginning an exercise program.
While some people attribute the rise in life expectancy to better medical care and food, these factors only account for a portion of the increase. Experts studying populations known for longevity found medical interventions do not directly result in longer life expectancy. This is especially true of Seventh Day Adventists who avoid traditional medical treatments and medications. People in this group actually lived an average of five years longer than others, due in part to maintaining their health with regular exercise.
Remaining active throughout life improves a person’s quality of life as they grow older. However, even older adults who begin an exercise program much later in life can improve their health and extend their life. A study by doctors at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem proved those who are sedentary do not live as long as people who exercise. Over the course of 18 years, the study found 24 percent of 85 year old seniors who were not active died, compared with just seven percent of those who exercised a little over half an hour each day.
Most people want to live longer. However, older adults don’t want to face a life filled with health complications and pain or the loss of their independence. Exercise offers the best opportunity for older adults to live longer, enjoy better health and maintain an independent lifestyle. Developing an exercise plan that includes four types of exercise allows a person to maintain the best health possible as they age.
Engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise provides many benefits, making it a vital component for improving health. A recommendation of 30 minutes a day, three times per week benefits most people. However, one study found people who set a goal to exercise three times a week end up only exercising once or twice a week. With a goal to exercise five or six times a week, most people meet the average recommendation more often. Walking offers the easiest and cheapest form of cardiovascular exercise and requires no special equipment or training.
Older people who break a bone develop a one in five chance of dying from complications. Most broken bones in adults result from falls. For this reason, exercises to improve balance also increase life expectancy. Tai Chi and Qui Gong, flowing exercises based upon martial arts movements, improve balance and mobility. Yoga offers another way to improve balance and the poses can be adjusted to suit different fitness levels. These types of exercise also help relieve stress because they require deliberate movement and focused attention.
Muscles become less elastic and shorter as we age which affects our shoulders, spine and hips. Flexibility exercises help relieve and prevent pain and improve mobility. Increased flexibility keeps muscles and joints supple to reduce pain from arthritis and make injuries less likely.
Simple stretching exercises can be done anywhere in just a few minutes. Anyone can benefit from doing stretching exercises one or more times each day.
While we often view strength building as something younger people do to look better, muscle strength actually improves a person’s quality of life. As we age, we lose muscle mass. Increasing lean muscle improves energy levels and boosts metabolism at any age. Muscle strength also enables older adults to live more independently and makes performing household chores easier. Resistance exercises using your own body weight, free weights and weight machines provide good ways to tone muscles and increase strength. Exercises using resistance bands also build muscle.
Engaging in cardiovascular, balance, stretching and strength building exercises can significantly extend a person’s life. Studies prove engaging in regular exercise helps prevent disease and allows older adults to maintain an independent lifestyle. No matter when you begin an exercise program, you can expect to experience many health benefits. A few of these include: a better self-image, increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL), decreased stress, better sleep and stronger bones. People of all ages benefit from making exercise a healthy habit. The odds are good you’ll live a long and healthy life when you commit to exercising on a regular basis throughout your life.