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Start Weight Training Now for Healthy Old Age

Monday , May 31 , 2021

Start Weight Training Now for Healthy Old Age

Hippocrates said, “That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”

As adults steadily move towards old age, it becomes progressively more important to maintain health and fitness through various exercises. More and more, research shows that strength training exercises, in particular, can help maintain health and fitness later in life.

On the flip side, if efforts are not made, the age-related loss of muscle mass can become a slippery slope from which it’s hard to recover.

Why is strength training so necessary for healthy aging? And does that mean other exercises, like walking and stretching, can be ignored? Keep reading to find out!

Why do we lose muscle as we age?

Research from Duke University has found that simple strength-related activities (such as standing up from a chair or balancing on one leg) often become more difficult as early as your 50s.  But why is that?

Often, it’s simply because people become more sedentary as they age – whether it’s due to health issues, physical limitations, or fatigue. In addition, as we grow older:

  • Hormone levels change
  • Protein requirements alter
  • And motor neurons die

Altogether, this can lead to a condition known as Sarcopenia, or the age-related loss of muscle mass. The word means flesh loss – from the Greek’ sarx’ (or flesh) and ‘penia’ (or loss).

This loss of muscle can affect posture, stability, and balance. It is one reason older adults fall so often, but older adults can fix it through regular exercise and strength training.

Sarcopenia can begin to affect adults as young as 30 years old, but it’s not until around 50 that the effects become very noticeable. At that point, muscle mass typically decreases about 30% during the next two decades. Then, even more dramatic losses begin after the age of 80.

It is important to note that age-related muscle loss can vary significantly from person to person.

Those that were active in their younger years are far more likely to stay fit as they get older – that’s why most experts suggest adults start weight training well before they reach middle age.

Signs of Sarcopenia

Often, the signs of Sarcopenia can be vague. Symptoms such as feeling physically weaker or suffering from frequent falls might be attributed to old age or other health issues. However, if you or a loved one experiences one or more of these signs and can’t explain why you should talk to a health professional:

  • Diminished muscle strength
  • Feeling physically weaker over time
  • Having more difficulty lifting common objects
  • Poor handgrip strength
  • Difficulty walking or rising from a seated position
  • Becoming exhausted quickly and having difficulty carrying out daily tasks
  • Unexplained weight loss

Fighting age-related muscle loss

The only way to stay ahead of the aging process is by staying active and fit.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, older people who lift weights can slow or even reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass. In fact, they can actually GAIN strength and better mobility, mental sharpness, and better metabolic health.

Experts say that a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance work is the key to preventing or reversing the condition, with a particular emphasis on the strength training portion.

A typical weight training program might include:

  • 8 to 10 exercises that target all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulder, and arms)
  • Sets of 12 to 15 reps, performed at an effort of about 5 to 7 on a 10-point scale
  • 2 to 3 workouts per week

Of course, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, a qualified personal trainer can help set up a sequence of exercises tailored to your abilities and can monitor you for safety and technique.

And remember: All of the exercises in the world won’t help if you don’t eat appropriately! So always try to get lots of protein (shoot for 30 grams per meal), check your vitamin D levels, and eat your Omega 3s.

Posted in: Aging, Health

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Monday , May 3 , 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more vital than ever to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles.

For the millions of Americans already living with mental illness, the uncertainty of the pandemic may have caused added stress. And the number of people experiencing symptoms is on the rise. According to recent studies, reports of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased significantly between April and June 2020 compared to the previous year.

These issues can be even worse for older adults, especially those who are isolated or who lack social support. 

Keep reading for more information on mental health issues in older adults and what you can do to help.

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Since 1949, Mental Health America has been observing May as Mental Health Month. The event helps spread the word about mental health through media campaigns, awareness activities, local events, and screenings.e

This year, the theme is “Tools 2 Thrive,” and the goal is to provide practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency in any situation. Topics include: 

  • Adapting after trauma and stress
  • Dealing with anger and frustration
  • Getting out of thinking traps
  • Processing big changes
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Radical acceptance

Mental Health and Older Adults

The American population is rapidly aging: approximately 75 million people will be over 65 by 2030. And according to a 2012 study from the Institute of Medicine, about one in five older adults have a mental illness, substance abuse condition, or both. 

It is likely that someone close to you – a friend, family member, or neighbor – is personally impacted or will be in the future.

Here are some ways you can help: 

Identify Risk Factors

Mental health illness can worsen an older adult’s physical health and overall well-being, but conditions such as anxiety and depression are often unrecognized and undertreated. It’s vital to be aware of issues that may leave your older loved ones vulnerable so you can intervene early. 

According to the MHA, common risk factors include: 

  • Chronic medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes
  • Overall feelings of poor health
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Side effects of medications (i.e., steroids, antidepressants, stimulants, bronchodilators/inhalers, etc.)
  • Alcohol or prescription medication misuse or abuse
  • Physical limitations in daily activities
  • Stressful life events
  • Adverse or difficult events in childhood

Know the Signs and Symptoms

Mental health illness can be challenging to recognize in older adults because they may show different signs than younger people. It’s important to know what to look for so you can help. Some common indicators include: 

  • Issues with confusion, concentration, or decision-making. Age-related memory loss is expected, to an extent. However, if an older adult starts to repeat themselves several times a day, states the same thing repeatedly, or has trouble concentrating for extended periods, it may be an issue. 
  • Periods of sadness lasting more than two weeks. Everyone feels sad from time to time. If these feelings persist, though, it is wise to see a doctor. 
  • Decrease in appetite or unexplained weight loss. Depression and anxiety can both play a role in appetite.
  • Changes in appearance. A marked decline in personal grooming can be a sign of several different mental health issues. 
  • Social withdrawal. When people struggle with mental health, it can be challenging to be functional in relationships. Keep mindful of loved ones who struggle with social isolation and do your part to try to connect. 
  • Unexplainable physical health problems. Mental health can affect physical health. Headaches, body aches, and feelings of general malaise are common in those with emotional health issues.
  • Unexplained fatigue. Mental illness can impact normal sleep patterns, leading to fatigue, lethargy, and brain fog during the day.

Get Help When Necessary

If you suspect that your older loved one or friend is suffering from mental illness, don’t let them struggle alone. Help them contact their health care provider to evaluate their condition and see what treatments are available. 

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The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

Monday , April 12 , 2021

The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

This Wednesday, April 14, is National Gardening Day. Whether you grow vegetables, flowers, houseplants, or anything in between, gardening is a fun and healthy hobby!

Studies show that spending time weeding, planting, and sowing is an excellent way to boost mental and physical health – especially for seniors. It stimulates the senses, provides physical activity, and helps us reconnect with nature.

Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of gardening and how to best grow your own:

How Does Gardening Benefit Seniors?

Home gardening has been on the rise since the onset of COVID-19. Why? Because not only is it a great socially-distanced activity, but it helps promote emotional wellness. 

  1. It lowers stress. Studies have shown that gardening can lower levels of the stress-producing hormone cortisol and raise the levels of serotonin, a calming chemical that helps improve mood. Some studies have even linked gardening to a reduction in symptoms of depression. In addition, gardening increases hand-eye coordination, which helps to keep the brain and body in sync.

 

  1. It boosts heart health. Did you know that in the 60–79-year-old age group, 69.1% of men and 67.9% of women have cardiovascular disease? Luckily, studies have found that regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30% for people over 60. Additionally, gardening can help you burn 200 to 400 calories and hour, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

 

  1. It increases mobility. Mobility problems in seniors can stop them from taking part in activities they enjoy and can lead to social isolation and depression. Many older adults begin to limit what they do physically, believing they are saving themselves from injury – but remaining active is the key to good health. Gardening is known to engage lesser-used muscles and to help build strength and mobility.

 

  1. It increases brain health. No one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer’s Disease or how to prevent it, but studies show that positive live choices, such as gardening, can have an impact. In fact, the physical demands, critical thinking skills, and sensory awareness have been shown to reduce the risk of dementia by up to 36%.

 

  1. It encourages healthy eating. There are many reasons why it can be difficult for seniors to stick to a healthy diet. New food aversions. Difficulty chewing. Dietary restrictions. Boredom. The list goes on and on. But growing your own garden makes it easy to access healthy, delicious foods in season – including many you can pluck off the plant and eat on the spot, like snap peas, cherry tomatoes, or berries.

Final Thoughts

Gardening can be an enjoyable activity when the weather is nice, and the benefits are many. One of the best things about gardening for seniors is that it is adaptable for all skill and ability levels – for example, potted plants or raised beds can be used instead of a traditional garden for those who can’t bend or kneel.

Need help getting started? In response to the influx of home gardeners during COVID-19, the Rodale Institute is offering a free Victory Garden Starter Kit complete with an Organic Gardening 101 webinar!

Check it out – and don’t forget to share photos of your home garden on our social media pages!

Have fun and happy gardening!

Posted in: Health

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