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Senior fitness – for body and mind
This story appeared in Health and Wellness Feb. 19, a special publication of Tri-County Newspapers.
There are some things you are never too old to do. Learning new tricks, falling in love, and keeping in shape.
According to research, the most important thing on that list for seniors is staying in shape.
"There is new evidence that senior citizens can preserve the size of their brain and memory into old age by walking regularly at least 6 miles per week," a recent study supported by the National Institute on Aging states.
So it appears, staying in shape for seniors can make learning new tricks easier and make falling in love something they can remember.
"Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems," said study author Kirk I. Erickson in "Senior Journal."
In his study, Erickson recorded the number of blocks walked per week in 299 dementia-free people with an average age of 78. The study found that people who walked at least 6 to 9 miles per week, had greater gray matter volume than people who don't walk as much and less problems with memory loss and dementia.
As often as weather permits, Bud Gott, 86, of Corning, walks the length of the town, from his home to the post office and back everyday.
A veteran of Iwo Jima, Gott said the activity has kept him in shape and has become a welcome habit.
Got also continues to do his own yard work which includes mowing his large lawn with a push mower.
Meredith Allen, athletic trainer and physical therapy assistant at Physical Therapy and Wellness Center in Corning, says staying fit is important for seniors.
"Physical fitness is important for the aging adult in helping prevent injuries," said Allen. "Walking and light resistive weight training can also help with joint discomfort and muscle fatigue."
A study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Associations" found physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week can lower the risks of chronic diseases and help ward off obesity. That is 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or 50 minutes three times a week.
John Winchell, 75, of Corning, said he tries to stay in fit by working out four times a week.
"I like lifting weights to help keep up my strength as I get older," Winchell said. "I should probably do a little more aerobics though than I do now, for my heart."
Along with brain function, other areas regular exercise can help seniors is in cognitive skills, bone density, blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer.
Staying fit not only helps the senior physically but also emotionally, and can create greater longevity as well as reduce the risk of physical disability and dependence.
There is no one form of exercise that seniors must participate in, but walking has proven to be one of the most beneficial and as is available to almost everyone.
Other forms of beneficial exercise include swimming, weightlifting, aerobic workouts, bicycling, Tai Chi, karate for seniors and yoga.
Almost every town, no matter how big or small, has a senior center or workout center where elderly people can go to stay in shape as well as socialize with others.
If that isn't available, there are numerous senior-focused exercise programs on DVD and even video games such as Wii sport and Wii fit that can provide in-home alternatives.
Each person is different, with his or her
own set of problems associated with aging, so an exercise program should be individually custom fit.
People with high risk bone density problems often gain better conditioning by swimming instead of other forms of exercise that can damage their bones.
Because of the risk factors associated with aging, all workout programs should be done with a doctor's approval and under a doctor's supervision.
Tri-County Newspapers staff member Cindy Monroe contributed to this article.