According to the American College of Sports Medicine, by the year 2030, the number of individuals in the United States 65 years and over will reach 70 million, and people 85 years and older will be the fastest growing segment of the population. Some of you may already be there, while others may be approaching. But whatever your age, exercise can be beneficial. Below is a description of what happens to our bodies as we age and how exercise can make all the difference.

As you grow older, an active life is more important than ever. Even as the world tells you it's time to retire, relax, and take it easy, your body is craving for you to keep moving. And though you may be ready to retire from your 9-to-5, don’t hang up your walking shoes quite yet. The truth is that if you really want to enjoy these golden years and get more quality time from them, your best strategy is to exercise regularly.
Exercise benefits much more than just the body — you can also improve your mental and emotional health by maintaining an active life. And if you have fun while you’re being active, chances are you’ll want to continue participating in that activity. Join a walking group so you can exercise and socialize at the same time, listen to music while you garden or work outside, call a friend and take a water aerobics class together, or join an organized club or sport. Stay active, stay involved, and you’ll stay healthy!
Research has found that bone mass can be increased in older women by physical activity. To determine whether physical activity can actually reduce the risk for broken hips, a large multicenter study was done. Nearly 10,000 women over 65 years of age were evaluated. The results of this important prospective (forward looking) study appeared in the July 15,1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise your bent legs up so that your knees are stacked over your hips, keeping a 90-degree bend in your knees. Brace your core to press your low back into the floor; make sure to maintain this flat-back position throughout the entire exercise. With your palms facing each other, bring arms up to point toward the ceiling.

The biggest problem: You begin with your body bent forward at the hips, and then straighten your hips as you pull the weight from the floor. It takes a lot of strength in your hip and torso muscles to keep your lower back in a safe position. If it shifts out of its natural arch at the beginning, and then moves back into it at the end, the risk of a disc injury is astronomical.
When I was younger, I never worried about my health or quality of life. As I've gotten older, I've realized how important that is from my own experience and from working with older personal training clients. My senior clients, some of whom are in better shape than I am, have taught me about the importance of being healthy and taking care of our bodies for the future. Even more important, they've taught me that it's never too late to start exercising.
To quote Gavin McHale, a Winnipeg-based Kinesiologist and Certified Exercise Physiologist
 who works primarily with older adults: “Strength is the fountain of youth. Benefits of resistance training (strength training), and subsequent strength gains, in older adults include better control of symptoms of chronic disease, pain and depression, as well as prevention of falls, maintaining existing muscle mass, improving posture and stability, increasing bone density and remaining functional.”

To quote Gavin McHale, a Winnipeg-based Kinesiologist and Certified Exercise Physiologist
 who works primarily with older adults: “Strength is the fountain of youth. Benefits of resistance training (strength training), and subsequent strength gains, in older adults include better control of symptoms of chronic disease, pain and depression, as well as prevention of falls, maintaining existing muscle mass, improving posture and stability, increasing bone density and remaining functional.”


In a large study of 439 adults (aged 60 and older) with osteoarthritis who did either aerobic exercise (walking) or resistance exercise (weight lifting) for 18 months, participants in the aerobic exercise group had a 10% decrease on a physical disability questionnaire, a 12% lower score on a knee pain questionnaire, and outperformed non-exercising individuals in the study on the following tests: a six-minute walk test (they walked further); the time it took them to climb and descend stairs; the time it took them to lift and carry 10 pounds; and the time it took them to get in and out of a car. In the weight-lifting, group, there was an 8% lower score on the physical disability questionnaire, 8% lower pain score, greater distance on the six-minute walk, and faster times on the lifting and carrying task and the car task than in the individuals in the study who did not exercise.

Life can and is hard and tough and painful at times. I have first-hand experience of this: Years ago, I was a recent university graduate, unemployed and aimless. All of this was having a knock-on effect on my social and mental wellbeing—I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t seeing my friends as often. I was snappy to family members and I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning…
Step-ups: Stand in front of a staircase and step up with your right foot, then up with your left, then back down with your right, then back down with your left. Repeat 10 times. If you need a little support, hold on gently to the railing, or better yet, just touch the wall with your finger tip and you'll be amazed at how much balance that gives you.
As you age, you may notice the tendency to be able to do less and less on your own. But, things don’t have to be that way. If you can learn to strengthen your muscles through resistance training, and you can apply that training in a way that mimics the movements you make on a daily basis and that mirrors the activities you enjoy, you will be better able to continue a normal lifestyle as you age.
The good news is that muscle mass can increase at any age in response to exercise. In an important study of weight lifting and older adults conducted with 100 male and female residents of a nursing home in Boston (age range: 72 to 98 years of age; average age 87), subjects lifted weights with their legs three times a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, there was an increase in thigh mass of 2.7%, walking speed increased 12%, and leg strength increased a whopping 113%! In a similar study of adults 65-79 years old, subjects who lifted weights three times a week for three months increased their walking endurance by 38% (from 25 minutes to 34 minutes) without appreciable increases in mass. Ida Weiss, a 91-year-old participant in the Boston study, had the following to say after the study, "It's very beneficial for me. Things that I couldn't do when I came here, I can do now. I didn't think that I was going to live anymore, but I feel different now."
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