Pella Chronicle

May 31, 2013

National Senior Health and Fitness Day spotlights the benefits of exercise for older adults

Nancy Hamilton
Hearthstone, a Ministry of WesleyLife

Pella —

Approximately 100,000 older adults embraced the “Think Healthy, Eat Healthy, Act Healthy…Be Healthy!” theme of this year’s National Senior Health and Fitness Day by participating in activities at more than 1,000 locations throughout the United States on Wednesday, May 29. 
Here in Pella, members of Hearthstone came together that day along with community members and residents of WesleyLife’s Park Centre in Newton to celebrate WesleyLife’s eighth annual National Senior Health and Fitness Day. They engaged in physical activity and social interaction by joining in outdoor lawn games and a walk at Lake Red Rock. Some walked a quarter mile, while others trekked up to two miles. Many participants capped off the celebration with a picnic lunch catered by Central College at North Overlook Shelter House. 
National Senior Health and Fitness Day provides a great opportunity to encourage older adults to become more active so they can enjoy the many benefits of exercise, which include strengthening mind, body and spirit.
Physical activity also is associated with a reduced risk or slower progression of age-related conditions, as well as improvements in overall health in older age, according to a commentary and four articles published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in January 2010.
The four studies published in that issue demonstrate the wide range of important age-related outcomes for which exercise has a relevant impact:
-Midlife exercise is associated with better health in later years for women who reach age 70 or older
-Resistance training programs  improve attention and conflict-resolution skills among older women
-Moderate to  high physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment in older adults
-Women age 65 or older who participated in an exercise program for 18 months appeared to have denser bones and a reduced risk of falls
“Exercise has previously been linked to beneficial effects on arthritis, falls, fractures, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity,” Jeff Williamson, M.D., and Macro Pahor, M.D., of the University of Florida, concluded in the commentary. “Regular physical activity has also been associated with greater longevity as well as reduced risk of physical disability and dependence, the most important health outcome for most older people.”
 “Physical activity is the only thing we know for sure that works to help preserve function with age,” says Barbara Nicklas, professor of geriatrics and gerontology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. She recommends older adults who want to become more active set manageable and realistic short-term (daily) and long-term (monthly) goals. She offers the following examples of realistic goals:
-Join an exercise class that is geared specifically for older adults. Class participation leads to better accountability and increases social contact.
-Find opportunities for increasing movement throughout daily life. For example, resolve to walk up and down at least one flight of stairs daily, or to stand up whenever talking on the phone.
-Begin a walking program to gain back or maintain walking endurance. Start by walking as long as you feel comfortable and pain-free, and then add 30 seconds or a minute the next day, and every day thereafter. If you miss a day, or even a week or longer, start again at the level of walking you are comfortable with.
The recommended amount of exercise for older adults is 150 minutes a week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.  
It’s never too late to start exercising and begin reaping the benefits of improved health and fitness. 
Just ask Hearthstone resident Nancine Hugen, 91.  She started using the NuStep® recumbent cross trainer for 30 minutes twice a week in January 2012.  She’s worked up to exercising three times a week, usually for 35-40 minutes. She regularly achieves her goal of taking 3,000 to 3,200 steps in each session. 
“I’ve had two surgeries on my left hip and I find that I get stiff and sore if I don’t get my exercise,” Nancine says. “Since I made exercising a priority, I find I can get around my apartment and complete my daily tasks easier. Although I have limited vision due to a stroke, I don’t let that stop me from being active. Exercising keeps me in shape so I can still do all the things I enjoy around our local community.”
Nancine’s determination proves that every day can be Senior Health and Fitness Day––and that it is never too late to “Think Healthy, Eat Healthy, Act Healthy…Be Healthy!”
Nancy Hamilton is Executive Director of Hearthstone, a Ministry of WesleyLife.