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For years growing up you may have heard "eat your vegetables!” Now it’s time to turn the tables and get your Mom up off the couch and get her to the gym! Lure her from the botox appointments and nail salons to the air squats and “step ups”. You don’t need to force her to become another Harriette Thompson who became the oldest woman to finish a half marathon at 94. (Harriette didn’t start running marathons until the ripe age of 76) But maybe Harriette will inspire her to walk a little further each day.
The National Institutes of Health states that only about 30% of people ages 45 to 64 say they engage in regular, leisure-time, physical activity. Between the ages of 65 and 74 the number falls to 25% and exercisers drop to just 11% for people 85 and older. (1)
Why is exercise imperative for your mom and for all of us as we age? Try disease prevention, cognitive benefits, better bone density, less falls, mood boost, less medications, as just a few of the benefits. (2)
"No matter what area you look to, be it heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, research shows that being physically fit into your senior years will keep you healthier and active longer," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise. (3)
Exercise will help build muscle mass. She will be able to mow the yard with vigor or pick up her groceries with ease.
Exercise will help build bone density. The ramifications of broken bones in the elderly is sometimes devastating. By increasing bone density through exercise she has a better chance of getting up in one piece after a fall.
Exercise will also help decrease her body fat. Maintaining a healthy weight is so important in disease prevention for the aging population.
And Exercise just might make her happier!
So are you really doing this just for your mom? Not entirely. You never want to hear the words, “your mother has cognitive alterations” from her physician - meaning— she’s losing it! You don’t want to go down that path and there are proven benefits that exercise can provide to keep the brain more active and healthy as you age.
Researchers from Tufts University conducted a study to see if the benefits of a controlled study would translate to a real world setting. Over a six month period, 40 adults (65-89 years old) who had mobility issues were put into two groups; half to a structured program of walking, strength, flexibility and balance training and the other group consisted of educational health.
Twenty-five percent of the scheduled physical activity classes showed increases in executive cognitive function, improvements in quality of life and an approximate 60% reduction in the occurrence of falls. If your Mom doesn’t use it she will lose it! (4)
So how do you determine the type and duration of exercise for your mom?
Experts recommend 4 types of exercise for older adults (5):
Endurance exercises such as fast walking and dancing improve the health of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. These exercises can make it easier for your mom to do things like mow the lawn and climb stairs.
Strength exercises like lifting weights and using resistance bands can increase muscle strength that is needed for activities including carrying groceries and lifting grandchildren.
Balance exercises can help prevent falls – a major health risk for older adults. Try standing on one foot or taking a tai chi class.
Stretching or flexibility exercises like yoga can give more freedom of movement for bending to tie shoes or looking backwards while driving out of the driveway.
And if your mom is sedentary, just get her walking!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that there are benefits with 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous walking. Encourage her to make her exercising a social event. Get her to start a walking group, even if they meet at the mall. Buy her a Fitbit and make it a contest to reach 10,000 steps per day. Or get her to join you at your CF box or gym and teach her that "step ups” happen without stairs.
“Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”