Exercise for Independence

by Sheila Kalas, personal trainer and owner of Fitness Plus

Sheila Kalas, owner of Fitness Plus in Lexington KYExercise is THE best way to ensure that you will remain independent as you age. Why? Because exercise is the key to your mobility. The key to independence is mobility; if you can’t move enough to do daily chores like getting dressed, feeding yourself, going to the store, and taking care of your home, then you will be dependent on someone else to do these things for you. Research indicates that regular exercisers have an average of 9 to 13 more years of independent living than non-exercisers. That’s a great reason to get out there and move.

The first baby boomers turn 69 in 2015 and the youngest boomers are 51 this year. This population is consumed with health, fitness and keeping a good quality of life as they age. They have seen or are seeing their aging parents deteriorate into old age, losing independence and dignity. They are determined not to follow in their parents’ paths.

This is clearly seen in my business of personal training. A large percentage of our clients are baby boomers. On average they workout more consistently than the younger population. They are more interested in exercising for health than they are exercising to look good. They have the right attitude.

Besides helping you keep your independence as you age, regular exercise reduces your chance for every major disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, risk of stroke, cancer, peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity.

Knowing that just a 30-minute walk a day could greatly reduce your risk for all of these diseases should provide enough reason for you to get out there and do it. No, there is no absolute guarantee that you won’t get or die from these diseases because you exercise. However, the research shows overwhelming evidence that you do reduce risk significantly.

There is also the issue of a condition called “sarcopenia.” This term refers to the age-related loss of muscle mass. Without some kind of weight-bearing exercise to challenge your muscles, your body will begin to lose muscle mass in your 30s. This loss will continue and speed up as you age. Simply lifting weights once or twice a week will stop this process of “rotting” and put you on a path of aging in a healthy, strong, independent manner.

Losing muscle mass also leads to a lower metabolism, making it easier to gain weight. Many people believe that getting old and getting fat are synonymous and that there is no way to avoid this trend. Not so. Intervening with weight training does stop this process and in many cases can reverse it.

Improved self-efficacy is yet another reason to exercise. For the first time, in 2010, the American Psychiatric Association formally recognized exercise as a part of the standard of care recommended for the treatment of depression. Depression is a huge problem in the United States. The statistics on how many people suffer from this disease is staggering. People who participate in regular exercise report a higher level of self-efficacy than those who do not exercise. Several studies show that people who suffer from depression and/or anxiety find marked benefit when exercise is added to their treatment.

These are just some of the reasons to make exercise a regular part of your life. The next time you see an older person who represents where you DON’T want to be when you are that age, burn that image into your mind and recall it every time you are thinking about choosing the couch over your daily walk or run.

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