HuffPost recently summarized the results of a new study entitled “Associations among Physical Activity, Diet Quality, and Weight Status in US Adults“. It was done by researchers at the University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC) and published in The Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. The study was one of the first to look at associations among moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, diet quality, and weight status within and across age groups in US adults.
Purpose: Nearly 70% of adult Americans are overweight or obese, but the associations between physical activity, diet quality, and weight status have not been examined in a representative sample of US adults. – Russell Pate et al (University of South Carolina)
Study: Exercise for seniors
The study, consisting of 4,999 American adults (ages 20-70) noted that diet alone isn't enough to stave off age-related weight gain. It further noted that exercise for seniors has a greater impact on weight gain than diet does. Authors felt their findings provided support for “public health efforts to prevent obesity by promoting increased physical activity in adult Americans”. Clearly, we all need to be more cognizant of the role that both diet and exercise play in our overall health.
Overall, Americans’ activity levels are lower thanks to sedentary jobs, technology and better mass transportation options, according to the American Heart Association. We’re paying for those conveniences with our health; about 69 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, which increases risk for diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and reproductive problems. – Anna Almendrala, HuffPost
Balance is the key
In our opinion, it's important to note that balance is really the key here. A consistent regimen of eating healthy foods (in proper portions) combined with (at least) the federal activity guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week is vitally important to both our physical and mental health. As we age, we need these 2 healthy components more than ever to stay sharp, to feel our best, and to keep our bodies strong (muscles as well as bone structure).
What are you doing to keep yourself healthy these days? Are you spending time at the gym? Do you have a particular walking/running routine? We'd love to hear how you're tackling these important issues in your life! Let us know in the comments below.
Senior Fitness Centers are in Demand
An abundance of research points to the tremendous value of exercise for people of all ages and abilities. Unfortunately, today's gyms can be intimidating places — particularly for older adults who are looking for something simpler than a “scene.” With 10,000 people turning 65 every day for the next two decades or so, it makes smart sense that a new breed of fitness center has emerged aimed at attracting the business of the senior set.
Let's take a closer look at the age-friendly fitness phenomenon, along with how to find a facility or program near you.
What is a Senior Gym?
What makes a senior-only fitness facility different than one for the general public? For starters, they feature equipment suitable for older adults. This can mean everything from low-impact cardio machines to air-powered resistance training.
Programming is also designed with older adults in mind and may include a variety of senior-friendly classes, such as balance training and even classes which can be taken sitting down.
Instructors and trainers, too, may have expertise in working with this particular demographic. In fact, many staff members at senior gyms may be seniors themselves. According to ACE director of credentialing Todd Galati, “People in their early 60's are becoming personal trainers and group fitness instructors.” He continues, “Every year I talk to newly certified personal trainers, retired from their career in another field, who want to help people their age become more fit.”
Not only does this specialized training and background give them unique knowledge and insight into senior fitness, but their enthusiasm, support, and understanding can be uniquely motivating to people within the same age group.
But the allures of senior-only fitness centers may go beyond the exercise itself. From the freedom to work out in the company of peers to background music geared for their generation, many older adults find the atmosphere of senior gyms to be both more manageable and comfortable — factors which can keep them coming back for more.
According to Nifty after Fifty founder Dr. Sheldon S. Zinberg, the movement is of paramount importance to senior health and wellness. “There is a big bad myth about the boomer generation being more fit,” he says. “In fact, the boomer generation is less fit than their parents were at the same age.”
With more than 30 locations — and more on the way — Nifty after Fifty and others like it seek to prevent and reverse this trend through comprehensive programming targeting muscle strength, reaction time, balance and even cognitive skills.
Putting Senior Fitness First
While the senior-only gym trend is coming on strong, it may not yet be in a town near you. But this doesn't mean you're without options when it comes to taking control of your fitness after 50, thanks to a joint effort of AARP and the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).
The two organizations have joined forces to help older adults find age-friendly exercise facilities in their area through a searchable database. While these may not be dedicated senior-only gyms, they are fitness, community and recreation centers featuring age-appropriate equipment and programs for seniors.
Says AARP senior vice president of health strategies Cheryl Matheis, “Many older adults want to find community programs or facilities that can help them be more active, but they don't know how to find them. By teaming up with ICAA to promote a locator tool, AARP hopes to reduce a potential barrier to exercise.”
So whether you're looking to find a Silver Sneakers chapter, AARP Walking program, or other age-friendly fitness programming near you, it's right at your fingertips. The best part? It's never too late! Any time is a great time to start taking control of your health and wellness. For more great senior-centric content on everything from senior discounts to legal and financial help for seniors, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Exercise and Brain Health
The value of exercise for physical health is well known by now. However, scientists are only just beginning to realize the full scope of the role physical activity plays in supporting comprehensive wellbeing. One area where researchers are increasingly unearthing the importance of exercise is cognitive function.
AARP and Age UK have joined forces to further explore the brain-body connection through the formation of the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH). Let's take a closer look at this organization and its findings while highlighting several ways to start moving your body more in order to reap the brain-boosting benefits.
About the Global Council on Brain Health
The GCBH brings together researchers, health professionals, policymakers and other global experts in an effort to determine what older adults can do to enjoy better brain health as they age. The ultimate goal is “To create a set of resources offering practical advice to the public, health care providers, and policymakers seeking to make and promote informed choices relating to brain health.”
Earlier this year, the GCBH convened to take a closer look at one particular issue: the effect of exercise on brain health. Its findings were profound. Not only did the organization conclude that moving the body indeed has a positive impact on cognitive function, but it also specifically determined that leading a physically active life actually changes the brain's structure and function for the better while reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
The report also suggests that there may also be a link between exercise and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, although the scientific evidence remains inconclusive.
Key takeaways on the link between physical health and brain health
So can you still get in on the many advantages of exercising, and if so what's the best way to start? The good news is that it's never too late to start changing your behaviors to incorporate more physical activity.
Specifically, the GCBH suggests two different approaches: the first involves adopting a more physically active lifestyle incorporating walking, gardening, and other forms of everyday movements. The second involves “purposeful exercise,” ie., walking, bike riding, strength training, and other fitness-forward pursuits.
Of course, establishing a fitness routine is not easy. The GCBH cautions seniors to start slow and built their activity levels gradually. Making firm, specific plans to exercise, being patient about the process, and exercising with a buddy can all help you get — and stay — on track. One word of caution, all seniors should consult with their healthcare practitioners before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Luckily, older adults don't have to do it alone. Plenty of resources exist aimed to help seniors embrace more physical activity. From taking a group exercise class at your local senior center to becoming a SilverSneakers member which grants you access to a national network of fitness centers, there are many ways to make exercise part of your life. Once you get started, the momentum takes over and soon it will become a natural part of your mindset.
While we often think of exercise in terms of its health benefits for the body, a growing amount of evidence points to equal benefits for the brain. And remember: Even baby steps can lead to big changes — at any age or fitness level.
For more useful content on everything from senior housing to senior discounts and beyond, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
A Look at Brain Fitness and Overall Wellness
Could remembering that story about riding bikes with your best friend actually be good for your health?
Can memories of your neighborhood and favorite games and toys assist in your overall well being?
Could coming to terms with difficult remembrances help you move on and live life to the fullest?
Indeed, it appears to be so. Over 100 studies over the last 10 years have found that reminiscing lowers depression, alleviates physical symptoms (arthritis, asthma), and stimulates the hippocampus where memories are stored in the brain.
In fact, Dr. Gene Cohen, a noted authority on creativity and aging, says “autobiography” is like chocolate for the brain–especially in older adults. So one very affordable and easy way to work that brain is to think back and consider the details in your memories and experiences.
4 fun ideas to test your memory:
- Can you actually remember a conversation that happened 20 years ago? Who was it with? What was it about? Did anything happen as a result of it?
- Remember a picnic from the past (maybe at a family reunion). Can you recall what you heard, smelled, tasted, touched, or saw at that event? Try to write it down.
- Walk yourself down the street of your neighborhood when you were a kid—even take out a piece of paper and jot down boxes for each neighbors house. Who lived in the houses? Who were your favorite and least favorite neighbors? What were some of the funny things that happened on your street?
- Try to describe one of your grandparents or parents to a friend. Can you recall their mannerisms, their appearance, and what they liked to do with their time? Think about what life lessons you learned from them.
In addition to the creative benefits of remembering, Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Healthy Aging, recommends that everyone compose an ethical will (this is simply a heartfelt letter to your loved ones). This letter of love can help people say what matters most to their family and friends. Just write it from your heart and tell them how you really feel.
Life review has also been found to touch all seven dimensions of wellness–especially helping people socially, emotionally, and intellectually. People at ALL stages of life can benefit from a look back at the past. That’s because, when we look to the past, it can help us come to terms with things, learn from our mistakes, see the joy in our lives, and discover what’s next.
9 Simple Exercises to Build Muscle and Avoid a Sedentary Lifestyle
For those of us who battle harsher winters, getting outdoors on a regular basis for exercise can be challenging during certain points in the year. Even those in southern states with more subtropical climates have to overcome obstacles. After all, it’s not easy exercising outside in 90-degree temperatures and 100-percent humidity. Older adults especially need to be careful of being outside for too long during extreme temperatures, as their bodies react differently to these changes.
No matter what climate you find yourself in, chances are that getting outside every day for exercise is a daunting task. We’ve all been there: the snowball effect of getting stuck inside and telling yourself the workout can wait until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after. Before you know it, weeks have passed and you’ve lost all your motivation to get the regular exercise your body needs!
Don’t let getting stuck inside dissuade you from staying active. As we age, it’s important to maintain and strengthen muscle tone so our bodies don’t begin failing us. Below are nine simple exercises that will help to build muscle and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Stuck Inside? Here Are 9 Simple Exercises to Build Muscle and Avoid a Sedentary Lifestyle
All exercises can be completed with only a chair and some small weights. (Don’t have any weights? Substitute soup cans!) Chair exercises are great to begin with before progressing to full-body movements.
- Shoulder Circles – While in a sitting position, place fingertips on your shoulders. Move shoulders forward in a circular motion for 15 reps or until you feel fatigued in the shoulder muscles. Reverse the movement and circle backward. This exercise is great to start with because of how much injury occurs to shoulder muscles. It also aids in warming up the area before moving on.
- Shoulder Rolls – Sit tall with feet planted flat on the ground. Shrug shoulders to your ears and slowly rotate the shoulders in a circle. Back, down, forward and back to the top. When you reach the top, reverse the movement. Try to complete 15 reps in one direction and reverse or alternate directions.
- Toe Taps – Sit straight up with feet flat to the ground. Bend your toes toward the ceiling and back to the floor. If this seems particularly easy, move forward to the edge of your chair and keep legs straight. Make sure to keep heels to the ground as you bend your toes upward and back down. Perform 10-15 reps.
- Knee Lifts – Sit straight up with feet flat. Slowly lift right knee toward chest, and then lower the foot back to the floor. Repeat with the left knee. Perform 10-15 reps. You can do all one side and then switch or alternate sides each rep.
- Tummy Twisters – Sit straight up in a chair. Keep feet flat to the floor. Push elbows toward your sides and keep forearms out in front. (Think dinosaur arms.) Then rotate torso from side to side, keeping the lower body still.
Here are some additional exercises graduating from chair sitting movements to standing movements:
- Side-Ways Bend – Standing upright, stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Slide the left arm down your side as far as comfortable. As you stretch, you should feel the stretch in the opposite hip. Repeat the other side. Complete 15-20 reps for each side. If you want to progress this exercise, hold small weights or soup cans!
- Calf Raises – Stand behind a chair. Standing up tall, use the chair as a bracing point. Lift both heels off the ground as far as comfortable. Keep this movement slow and controlled. Repeat 5-10 times. To make this exercise more difficult, brace the chair with only one hand. Those more advanced can remove the chair completely. If possible, have a buddy standing close by, as this exercise can tend to make the calves suddenly very fatigued.
- Leg Extension – Rest your hands on the back of a chair. Lift your left leg to the side as far as comfortable, keeping back and hips straight. Avoid turning to the right. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Try for 15 reps each side. Either rotate sides or complete one side before moving to the next. This exercise can also be progressed to move leg from the sides to moving the leg slightly backward and then forward.
- Bicep Curls – Hold two small weights (5lbs or less) or a set of soup cans. Stand straight and tall and hold one in each hand. Standing with arms at the side, bend your arms upward until the weight reaches your shoulder. Lower back to sides and repeat. If this is difficult, do both arms at once and alternate sides.
Listen to Your Body
Remember, the end game here is to better your physical health, not injure it! Be sure that you’re listening to your body during these movements, and not pushing too hard if you feel fatigued or any type of acute pain. Whenever possible, complete these exercises with someone else in the room should you need unexpected support. Also, remember to stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day, replenish fluids after exercise. Read about the importance of hydration. An inability to get outside should never put a damper on your exercise routine! With these essential movements, you’ll never need to use that as an excuse for skipping a workout again.
The Two Best Exercises For Seniors
As we age, our bodies begin to function at a slower rate. The typical response to this is to reduce the amount of physical activity we do. In fact, men and women over the age of 65 spend on average at least 10 hours per day in a stationary position.
A lack of physical activity puts adults at an elevated risk of health complications. It also reduces our quality of life as the more time spent sitting still, the less able we are to move.
There is strong evidence to suggest that in addition to eating a healthy diet, we should exercise on a regular basis. This will lead to many health benefits and longer life. Below we discuss two of the best exercises for seniors; swimming and walking. We also give you advice on how to organize your workouts to get the greatest benefit and enjoyment.
Exercises for Seniors: Swimming
Swimming is a great form of exercise for older adults as it is low-impact and is suitable for people who suffer from sore or stiff joints. Swimming provides benefits for the whole body and swimming on a regular basis can reduce the risk of illnesses such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
If you are new to swimming, seek out beginner lessons at your local pool. These classes aim to teach beginners swimming strokes, breathing skills and help to build your confidence in the water. Often, community pools will cater to different age groups. There may also be other classes that suit your needs like individual sessions, water aerobics, and masters groups.
All you will need is a comfortable well-fitted swimsuit, a swimming cap and a pair of goggles to protect your eyes.
Whatever your fitness level, aim for 30-minutes of swimming each session. This will count towards the recommended level of weekly physical exercise. If you like being in the pool, you might also enjoy aqua aerobics. This exercise is popular with older adults. It is, simply, aerobics in the water.
Exercises for Seniors: Walking
Walking is another excellent all-around activity that is perfect for older adults. It is also an easy and convenient method of physical activity. Consistent and regular walking in the fresh air can have many benefits on your mental and physical health.
It’s never too late to start regularly exercising, so if you are new to frequent walks, start off slowly. Begin with a 15-minute slow walk each day. When you start to feel more comfortable in your stride, gradually increase the speed and the length of your walk. As with swimming, you should be aiming for 30 minutes each day.
If you have not done so already, invest in a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes. Your best bet for quality walking shoes is a sport or outdoor store. Ask the store assistant for advice on making the right footwear decision. Some walking and running stores will even asses your gait and foot placement to recommend the best shoes for you.
To make walking more enjoyable, invite a friend, neighbor or relative to come along with you. Or, you could invest in a portable music player and listen to your favorite songs while walking. Your community may have local walking groups and some indoor malls open their doors early to walkers before retailers are open.
Regardless of your activity of choice, the best advice is to “use it so you don't lose it”!