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Until the technologies arrive that will allow us to target the aging processes themselves age will take its inevitable toll on our bodies. This is a concern especially as senior citizens in our society are commonly debilitated by muscle weakness, joint pain, and other physical ailments.

When thinking about life extension, one of the common questions we get asked is “can we do anything personally to keep in shape and as healthy as possible while rejuvenation biotechnology is being developed?”

Fortunately, you may be able to minimize the toll and even counter the effects of aging by maintaining a good level of fitness throughout your life. Since seniors are the fastest-growing demographic of the U.S. population, many of whom are already living into their 90s, it is essential that we recognize the routines and exercises that can help us avoid the health issues that come with old age. This way, we can supplement our longevity by our own means and boost our chances of remaining healthier as we age.

Exercises to Reduce the Effects of Age

In order to keep our bodies feeling—and looking—as young as possible, it is crucial to be active. Some exercises, like moderate amounts of walking, can give seniors the right amount of physical activity that is still low impact and can be conveniently added to a daily routine. Even as little as 30 minutes of walking a day has been shown to reduce mortality risk[1].

What is more, the medical professionals at Harvard University have the following to say about this simple activity, “The cardiovascular benefits of walking are biologically plausible; like other forms of regular moderate exercise, walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress.”

Dancing is another excellent exercise choice that can help improve muscle tone, balance and according to a study, this year can even reduce cognitive decline due to aging[2]. Balance is very important as it can help to reduce the risk of having a fall and injury, a potentially serious problem for older people. Dancing could be a great low impact way to maintain balance, reduce fall risk and improve cognitive function as you age.

Finally, swimming is also another excellent low impact form of exercise that can help to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls as we age. A study in 2014 looked at the risk of falls in older men and compared them to those who were regular swimmers, there was a significant reduction in fall risk and improved balance in those who made swimming a regular activity[3].

Reducing muscle loss as we age

In addition to walking and other light exercise, seniors should give special focus to strengthening their muscles – which are inevitably weakened as we age. The gradual loss of muscle mass with age is known as Sarcopenia and is included in the World health organization international classification of disease. Sarcopenia is the leading cause of age-related frailty and therefore finding ways to reduce its impact are important.

Building muscles as a senior may seem like a difficult challenge, but it is the best way to minimize the chances of developing osteoporosis and other bone issues. Studies, such as the one conducted by Calcified Tissue International, show that seniors, who weight lift are less likely to suffer injuries like hip fractures, compared to those who do not maintain an improved bone density[4].

In a 2014 experiment, patients being treated for osteoporosis who participated in regular strength training gave evidence to the fact that their quality of life was improved by lifting weights[5].

For the 44 million people in the U.S. with low bone mass or osteoporosis, strength training is, therefore, an extremely important exercise to implement on a regular basis for the sake of longevity. Compared to seniors who do not lift weights, strength training significantly increases the bone mineral density and quality of life in a way that reduces fragility and other complications from osteoporosis.

By mixing different exercise techniques that improve the mechanical properties of the bone, like resistive or weight-bearing exercises, seniors can be better prepared to handle the negative effects of aging on the body.

Helpful Tools to Monitor Your Fitness Level

If you are unsure how to keep track of your strength training exercises or your level of physical activity in general, there are many useful fitness tools on the market that can assist you. With the right fitness wearable, you can easily access all of the needed data, like your heart rate, reps, sets, and speed of your workout. This way, you can design workouts based on the results that you seek.

One example of a budget-friendly fitness wearable is the Moov Smart Coach tracker. Starting at $59.95, this fitness tracker can be worn on your wrists and will sync with your phone to give you accurate readings of your reps. It also provides coaching suggestions and will challenge you to continually get stronger.

Another option is the mid-price PUSH Strength armband, which retails at $289.00 for the basic model. This device actually measures strength and provides immediate feedback so you can tweak and make the most of your training. The band features automatic rep tracking and advanced analytics that will ultimately send real-time data to your phone that will maximize your training.

With the help of a wearable fitness tool and the realization that strength training is needed to combat the effects of weakness and bone thinning that comes with old age, people can jumpstart their longevity by focusing on their level of physical fitness.

Conclusion

As part of our health and longevity strategy, exercise is vitally important and we should do everything we can to ensure we engage in regular physical activity. As studies show, this does not need to be punishing and endless hours down the gym and even moderate low impact exercise is beneficial to health and longevity.

The medical technology is not yet here that will allow us to address the aging processes directly so maintaining physical fitness while we wait for them to arrive is critical if we want to live long enough to potentially benefit. There are not many things we can do about aging currently but exercise and physical activity is one of them.

Literature

[1] Patel AV, Hildebrand JS, Leach CR, et al. Walking in relation to mortality in a large prospective cohort of older U.S. adults. Am J Prev Med. 2017 [in press] DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.08.019.

[2] Rehfeld, K., Müller, P., Aye, N., Schmicker, M., Dordevic, M., Kaufmann, J., … & Müller, N. G. (2017). Dancing or fitness sport? The effects of two training programs on hippocampal plasticity and balance abilities in healthy seniors. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11.

[3] Merom, D., Stanaway, F. F., Handelsman, D. J., Waite, L. M., Seibel, M. J., Blyth, F. M., … & Cumming, R. G. (2014). Swimming and other sporting activities and the rate of falls in older men: longitudinal findings from the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project. American journal of epidemiology, 180(8), 830-837.

[4] Maddalozzo, G. F., & Snow, C. M. (2000). High intensity resistance training: effects on bone in older men and women. Calcified tissue international, 66(6), 399-404.

[5] Shanb, A. A., & Youssef, E. F. (2014). The impact of adding weight-bearing exercise versus nonweight bearing programs to the medical treatment of elderly patients with osteoporosis. Journal of family & community medicine, 21(3), 176.

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