Aging, its one of life’s inevitable processes that we all go through. Some people age well, and some, well not so much. For today’s article I am going to discuss what happens to our bodies as we age, and how regular exercise can help to slow the process.
Besides the obvious increase in age, as we get older a lot of different things happen to our bodies…
joints stiffen, bones lose density and strength
muscles weaken and may get tight
we experience weight gain
we experience memory loss
cardiovascular capacity decrease
balance gets worse
immune system becomes weaker
quality of sleep worsens
Joints and bones- People lose bone density and strength as they age, especially true in women after menopause. This causes the bones to become more brittle and to break more easily. Joints become stiffer and less flexible, and lose cartilage through aging, which leads to inflammation, pain and stiffness.
How exercise can help- Regular exercise can help you maintain bone density and keep their strength, making you less likely to break a bone if you were to fall or get hurt. Keeping strong muscles around joints also improves the performance of the joints as you age. Exercise also helps to keep off extra weight, which decreases the amount of pressure on your joints.
Muscle strength- Muscles lose size and strength as we get older. This process can begins as early as your late 20’s. Remember from the previous topic that decreased muscle strength around the joints may also lead to weak/painful joints.
How exercise can help- Anyone, of any age, can increase muscle mass and strength through muscle building activities such as exercising with weights. Increased muscle strength can increase your balance and coordination, make everyday tasks seem less physically demanding, help maintain bone density, and keep joints happy and healthy.
Weight Gain- As people age their metabolism generally slows down and they find that they can no longer eat those cookies they love so much without putting on a few extra pounds. There are two ways to combat this… by no longer eating those cookies, or to exercise regularly to help keep the weight off.
How exercise can help- Regular exercise will not only burn calories through the activity, but help to increase ones metabolism overall. More muscle mass means more calories burned, even at rest. Also, exercise can help with mental and emotional health, keeping you happy and healthy and away from eating out of boredom, sadness, depression, etc..
Memory Loss- It has been shown that as you age you lose cognitive abilities that came naturally when you were younger. Specifically, your long term memory will likely be the first to go.
How exercise can help- In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise appears to increase the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Physical exercise increases oxygen to the brain and reduces the risk of disorders that lead to memory loss (diabetes, cardiovascular disease).
Cardiovascular Capacity- As you age you will find that activities that used to be easy for you, climbing one flight of stairs for example, now become arduous and leave you winded. This is because your body's cardiovascular system has declined over time.
How exercise can help- Regular cardiovascular exercise helps the heart stay strong and pump more blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body. It also helps by increasing the body’s ability to remove waste and greatly reduces the chance of serious health conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
Balance- As we age, our balance worsens for a variety of reasons. our sight diminishes with age, limiting our ability to see clearly and our depth perception. Losing muscle mass and strength also may cause people to not feel as strong and secure while standing without holding onto something. Last, our reflexes and coordination diminish with age, reducing our reaction time in the case of a fall.
How exercise can help- While exercise won’t help with your vision (surgery can however), it will help with your muscle mass and strength, keeping you more sturdy on your feet. It can also help to increase your reflexes and coordination if proper exercises are prescribed.
Joint Flexibility and Mobility- Often times as you age you will notice that you become much less flexible than you once were, and your joints just don’t seem to move in the same ways. This usually stems from the decrease in regularity in which we move and bend our joints.
How exercise can help- Regular exercise and stretching essentially keeps the body working as a well oiled machine. If you continue to do this as you age, you will encounter a much lesser degree of loss of flexibility and mobility.
Immune System- As you age your body’s self defense capabilities diminish and you’ll find you become sick much more often and much easier than you ever had in the past.
How exercise can help- Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. By promoting good circulation, exercise helps the immune system operate much more efficiently.
Quality of Sleep- Becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, less deep sleep, and waking up throughout the night are common in adults as they age. A general lack of energy expenditure can cause these symptoms to become more severe.
How exercise can help- Exercise has an effect on sleep just like sleep has an effect on exercise. They are intertwined and help each other out immensely. The more sound sleep you get, the better you will feel the following day and the better your exercise routine will be. The better your exercise routine, the better your sleep will be the following night. As you exercise your body’s energy expenditure is much higher than at any other point in the day. Often times, people with sleeping problems simply do not have a sufficient amount of energy expenditure throughout their day, and may find that they are sitting at work, at home on the couch, then laying in bed shortly after. Without expending this energy, your body will not feel tired enough to fall asleep quickly and remain asleep throughout the night.
Well there you have it, everything you really need to know about the effects of aging and how exercise can help! If you’re not already exercising, get to it. It will help you live a much longer and more fulfilled life!
Thanks for reading. Until next time, keep it healthy!
Fitness Fusion Easthampton