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Seniors Page


Exercises to  Postpone the effects of Aging

since all of us are aging, maybe aging needs to be more clearly defined; let's say sixty-something, and beyond. Actually, even that isn't an adequate delimiter. The problem is really how to deal with physical problems, like arthritis or lack of muscle strength and endurance, problems normally associated with aging, but which can appear at any age. So, if the shoe fits, wear it, as they say.


Exercise for the aging can be looked at as a sort of "fountain of youth." It can help with weight management, improve skeletal-muscle strength and endurance, cardiopulmonary fitness, flexibility, and enhance feelings of well-being, possibly improve your immune system, and your mental health.

Weight Management

Of course nutrition - diet - is a very significant factor in this issue, but is outside of the scope of this article. We will only address the exercise aspect of weight management.

It is widely accepted that permanent weight loss from diet alone is pretty futile. Exercise is now an integral part of any permanent weight loss program. The two go hand-in-hand: a sensible, healthy diet (often referred to as a low-fat diet), and exercise seems to be the only successful way to maintain long-term weight control. Exercise is important in this formula not just for immediate calorie expenditure, but for increasing the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR-formerly known as basal metabolic rate, or BMR) so that we expend more calories all day long - even during sleep. [Note that there is some thought that this factor has little effect on weight control.] Exercise can perform this little miracle by increasing muscle tissue, which is more metabolically active than, say, "fat."

And take notice that an exercised body is a more attractive and functional body.

Cardiopulmonary Fitness

This section addresses the physiological changes in the cardiopulmonary system (the heart, blood flow, lungs) effected by exercise.

Age is often accompanied by a rise in both systolic (pressure as blood is pumped out of the heart) and diastolic (pressure as the heart relaxes prior to the next beat) blood pressures. Both can be lowered by exercise; which increases the size and strength of the heart, and the blood supply to the heart. A result of this is a lowering of the heart rate. Lowering of the heart rate and blood pressure reduces risk of heart disease. In the event of a heart attack despite exercise, survival is more likely; as are future heart attacks or strokes less likely.

Maximum oxygen uptake ( the infamous VO2max) decreases with age. It is, in essence, the amount of oxygen that we can utilize during vigorous exercise. Exercise produces higher energy by raising VO2max, which increases your endurance.

Respiration is improved as the breathing muscles are strengthened. Normally, respiratory muscles weaken and shorten with aging; which, along with decreased elasticity of lung tissue, decreases breathing capacity.

Exercise decreases triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, which reduces risk of developing harmful blood clots; thereby reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.

While lowering cholesterol levels, the level of HDL increases, which helps to stave off heart problems.

And, finally, exercise seems to raise the level of TPA, which decreases the clot-forming substance fibrinogen, a further protection against heart, and blood circulation problems.

Skeletal/Muscle Health

Aging is normally accompanied by loss of muscle strength and bone density. Both problems are mitigated by exercise. Tendons and ligaments are also strengthened by exercise, which helps to stabilize joints, which reduces risk of falls - a serious problem for the elderly. And, stronger joints enhance overall mobility, as well.

Please note that there is no age beyond which exercise cannot be a benefit to one's well-being.

A final note here is that exercise can also help to reduce back pain, among its myriad of physical benefits. Exercise can help to improve posture, and poor posture can cause lower back pain. It can also help sufferers of arthritis, and other musculoskeletal problems.

General Health

There is some support for the idea that exercise enhances the immune system, in general. It may also reduce the risk of getting some cancers - breast and colorectal. It definitely helps prevent development of diabetes in adults, and improves digestion - it is a natural laxative. We have already mentioned its help in preventing falls, and if you end up in a hospital for surgery, the fitter you are, the better your chances of a successful recovery.

Mental Health

Positive results of exercise in this category are pretty subjective, but there are numerous potential results: improved self-image and self-confidence, relaxation from mental stress [Very real, in my experience.], perhaps improved mental acuity, increased sociability, and help to overcome insomnia.


It is a good idea to meet with a physician before starting an exercise program, and explain to him/her what you are planning to do; then, with approval, you can feel safe about starting your program.

There are several health risk factors, which should be either eliminated by you, or at least discussed with your physician as part of your pre-exercise medical consultation. They are: 1) cigarette smoking, 2) obesity (30% or more overfat), 3) diabetes, 4) high blood pressure (untreated), 5) high blood cholesterol level, and 6) family history of death under age 55 from heart (or unexplained) reasons.


1) Drink lots of water - before, during, and after exercise - keep hydrated.

2) Warm-up and cool-down. Start an exercise session with a warm-up. Some guidelines for a very thorough warm-up are:

  1. Limber up for 6-7 minutes. This may be slow walking, pedalling on a stationary bicycle, or some similar aerobic activity.
  2. Rhythmic exercise for 5-6 minutes. This is a series of movements designed to move specific muscles, to get them fully prepared to do the actual resistance exercises.
  3. Very mild stretching for 1-2 minutes.

The warm-up slightly raises internal body temperature, as well as slightly elevating the heart and breathing rates. A warm body is ready for more intense exercise - joints and muscles are loosened up and ready to go. It should be noted that weights should not be used during a warm-up.

For a cool-down, the following suggestions are offered:

  1. A standing cool-down should last about 5-7 minutes. This may be easy walking, or a very gentle ride on a stationary cycle, or other aerobic activity.
  2. Stretching for at least 5 minutes.

A cool-down is designed to allow heart rate and breathing to gradually return to normal. An abrupt termination of an exercise session can result in pooling of blood in the lower extremities, which puts a strain on the cardiovascular system - the heart has to work especially hard to get the blood back up to the trunk.

Note that it is recommended that the head not be allowed to drop below the chest - some older exercisers may faint as a result.

Note that this cool-down description is more applicable to an aerobic workout, and may be tailored for a calisthenics or weight workout, which won't normally raise heart rate and breathing to sustained high levels.

If an exerciser experiences: 1) dizziness, 2) queasiness or nausea, 3) extreme shortness of breath, or 4) shakiness; the appropriate reaction is to slow down, or stop for a rest.

Working a muscle to fatigue helps it grow stronger, but don't go to the point of being completely "wasted." An injury can result from uncontrollable, exhausted muscles - especially as we get older.

And remember that "no pain, no gain" is not a good indicator of just working hard. You must learn to distinguish between real pain, and just being tired. Fatigue is one thing, and pain is another. As we get older, tissue injuries are slower to heal, so we should strive to avoid them.

If you experience joint pain, it is wise to avoid the movement that caused it, but some muscle soreness around a joint is okay. It will go away, and you will get stronger. Unless muscle soreness is really intense, mild exercise is better than simple rest to make it disappear.

To minimize muscle soreness:

  1. Fully warm-up.
  2. Fully cool-down
  3. Exercise muscles to fatigue, but never to pain or collapse.
  4. Increase activity level only gradually - about 10% at a time. Only make increases when your current level of activity feels easy. If you get too tired, back off in approximately 10% decrements.

Take a day off if you are really tired, and don't exercise if you have an above normal temperature.

Don't exercise right after heavy meals - wait about two hours. And hard exercise should be limited to five days a week, and about one hour at-a-time - to help prevention of injuries.

Use good posture when you exercise - no swayback, weight evenly distributed on both feet, "soft" knees, tightened abdominal and buttock muscles, and keep your neck in-line with your spine (i.e., if you are standing, you should be looking forward; if you are bent 90 degrees at the hips, you should be looking at the floor). Don't hyperextend or lock joints. And work through a full range-of-motion. Don't do ballistic movements - stay under control, always. Don't use momentum. And, please, don't forget to breathe. I like to see forceful breathing (at least the exhaling part) when training someone, so that I can easily tell, and don't have to keep asking: "are you breathing?" Exhale on the exertion phase, and inhale on the "return" phase. You could pass out if you don't heed this advice. At the very least, your exercise effort will be subverted by lack of an adequate oxygen supply.

As with all segments of the population, there are three appropriate modes of exercise: aerobics, resistance training, and stretching.

Before getting to formal exercise, it is important to mention that many aging individuals find themselves very unfit; not so much because of the aging process itself, but from an accumulation of a mostly sedentary lifestyle - excess weight (fat), weak muscles, a general decrease in joint flexibility, an increased risk of getting heart disease cancer, or diabetes, and more. These conditions make one susceptible to falls, for one thing - a leading percentage of deaths among the elderly.

There is one simple solution - get moving, and keep moving. Lawn work, gardening, bicycling, hiking, golf (but walk, don't ride), tennis - any activities that are just part of your life, but aren't formal exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of a parking lot, and walk a little. Anything is better than nothing? [I apologize for using this trite cliché, but it is true.]

Tai Chi is A Great Exercise For Seniors

Although most exercises can be modified to suit the needs of Seniors, some forms of exercise appear to be inherently more suitable for Seniors than others. Modified Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan and Fusion-One are three such exercise programs.

What is Tai Chi Chuan?
T'ai Chi (Grand or Supreme Ultimate) is best described as a series of postures performed in a slow, effortless and continuous manner. It is an active form of meditation, a system of physical exercise and a method of self-defence.

The system of T'ai Chi originated in China nearly 1,000 years ago. Its postures and movements were derived from forms used for self-defence. Although it is generally believed that the originator of the system was a famous Taoist monk, Chang San Feng, some scholars and practitioners of the art, such as Jason Ying-arng Lee, author of several books on Tai Chi, including "Tai Chi Chuan for self-defence" (Unicorn Press, Hong Kong) question the authenticity of this historical claim. Non-the-less, it is said that Chang San-feng developed the system after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane. The crane attacked the snake repeatedly, but the snake, through its fluid and swift movements, was able to evade the stabbing attacks of the crane's beak. In time, the crane became tired and fell victim to the snake. This battle showed Chang the value of yielding in the face of strength. He saw in the encounter, the principle of the I-Ching; the strong changing to the weak and the weak changing to the strong.

The Many Benefits of Tai Chi
The benefits of this important art are quite numerous. As a means of self-defence, T'ai Chi has proven to be quite effective. Its ability to prevent certain illnesses, retard the aging process, prolong life, improve the circulation of the blood, tone muscles, relax tensed nerves, focus the mind and foster deep relaxation have been expounded by doctors, both Asian and Western, for many years. My earliest exposure to these benefits was by way of doctor Edward C. Chou who had written the introduction to the book Lee’s Modified Tai Chi Chuan for Health. Since that time numerous studies, both in America and abroad, have confirmed these benefits.

A benefit of Tai Chi that will certainly be of interest to Seniors is its capacity to assist in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. We know that well over 15 million Americans are afflicted with the condition, and that it strikes one in four women over the age of sixty (Successful Aging by Anne C. Averyt; page 237). Because Tai Chi places gentle stress on the legs and connected areas, the bones involved become stronger and more dense; a plus for those with osteoporosis and anyone wishing to prevent the condition.

The Practice of Tai Chi
T'ai Chi or T'ai Chi Chuan is practiced by millions of people around the world. It is an important part of the culture of the Chinese people and it is said to be the national exercise of the Peoples Republic of China. Although T'ai Chi may be practiced by anyone, its very nature makes it ideal for the elderly. First of all, the form is performed slowly and requires a minimum of time, effort and strength. Second, it can be practiced at anytime and requires little space. Furthermore, T'ai Chi is a relatively inexpensive activity that may be performed by individuals or by groups of people.
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Copyright © 2000 Fitnwell, UK
Wednesday September 08, 2010 12:43:13

| home | abdominal exercises | aspartame | blood pressure | BMI | calculators | contacts | diet advice  | dumbbell exercises | exercises | fitness | fitness links | fitness log | gym equipment | lifts | men's page | MFW | MFW Trolls |  Misc | schedules seniors' page | sitemap | useful links | weight training | women's page

This is the home of Physical Training & Fitness - 'Fitnwell' - It is hoped that you enjoy your time here and that you find something of interest. Do let me know if you have any queries, and also your feedback.