Jerrold Hyman

Exercise and Aging

Jerry Hyman

An Important Element for the Elderly

By: Jerrold Hyman

Starting, maintaining or projecting an exercise program for the future can be a complicated project. This is especially true for an older adult and the elderly. At any age, as we evolve physically, mentally and emotionally, we meet challenges along the way that may pose difficulties for us in any or all these areas. Physically one may incur an injury, trauma, chronic ailment or disability. Mentally, one may suffer memory loss, head trauma or other impairments. Emotionally, as time forges on and gravity wears us down, motivation, depression, living life can all take their toll. Such obstacles can be met head on and overcome, or they can get the best of us.

A positive attitude and mental outlook has helped many achieve the success of aging healthily. Self-awareness, motivation, hobbies and things that make us smile and laugh are key factors. Recognizing the factors necessary to achieve positive outcomes as one ages, is most beneficial. Sometimes the children, grandchildren or even great grandchildren of elderly adults, provide the impetus that is unrecognized by the adult in question. At times these people are the motivating factor that leads elderly loved ones to an exercise program to maintain strength and vitality as they grow older.
Exercise is multifaceted in this regard. It has many benefits that positively affect one’s outlook, keeping people healthy in mind, body and spirit, and allowing for vitality and ability to maintain independence as the aging process moves ahead. Many women and men enjoy exercise well into old age and receive the multiple benefits exercise has to offer.

Physical activity in the form of prescribed training increases bone density, muscle mass/strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and resilience of soft tissue and associated structures, and range of motion around joints. It also assists metabolism, blood circulation, and energy system function. Movement education assists in developing and maintaining mobility and stability in general movement and coordination patterns. When one is more confident and able, and thus less reliant on others, this  provides a general feeling of wellness, and decreases mental stress. In effect, this helps one’s emotional stability and well-being, and becomes a contributing piece of the complicated puzzle of one’s overall healthy ageing process.

Proper exercise and positive reinforcement of movement patterns help neural pathways stay viable, allowing for daily living to proceed less hindered as people age. As elderly people suffer decreased ability to live life in the physical domain, this loss also affects other aspects of one’s personality, and drains life away.

Elderly adults understand the importance of simple movement patterns that young children and even healthy older adults don’t yet fully comprehend. When one is elderly, one does not want to lose the ability to move sideways in a kitchen, back and forth, going from a higher cabinet to reach something, to a lower cabinet, or to put something away. People want to be able to get up, lie down, roll over in bed and use their bodies to live life to the fullest. They want to continue to do the things that make them laugh, to go places, to practice hobbies, visit family and walk around. A proper, monitored exercise program can help an older or elderly adult maintain or improve participation in all of these basic and fulfilling life activities.

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