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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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National Senior Health & Fitness Day

Monday , May 24 , 2021

National Senior Health & Fitness Day

On the last Wednesday of May each year, thousands of older adults put on their sneakers and celebrate National Senior Health & Fitness Day. At ComForCare, we encourage all adults aged 65+ to make exercise a part of their daily routine!

Seniors benefit in many ways from exercise, including stress reduction and stronger muscles and joints. Even better? “Exercise” doesn’t have to be a 60-minute aerobics class or a 5-mile run. There are countless types of physical activity, and most can be modified to fit physical limitations.

Keep reading for more information on the advantages of exercise for seniors and a few fun ways you can get moving.

Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults

As an older adult, exercise can help you in many ways. Countless studies show that it improves both physical and mental health, which helps us maintain independence as we age. Below are six of the best benefits for aging adults:

Prevent Disease

Exercise improves overall immune function, which is important for seniors as their immune systems are sometimes compromised. Even light physical activity, such as walking, can improve digestive function, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

As we age, our metabolism naturally slows down, and maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging. Regular exercise helps boost your metabolism and build muscle mass, helping your body to burn more calories.

Decreased Risk of Falls

Exercise improves your strength, balance, flexibility, and mobility, which in turn can reduce your risk of falls. Strength training can also help alleviate symptoms of conditions such as arthritis and chronic joint pain.

Improved Cognitive Function

Studies show that regular physical activity can lower the risk of cognitive decline and memory loss, no matter when you begin a routine. In addition, exercise can also help slow the progressions of brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Better Sleep

Quality sleep is vital for your overall health, especially as you get older. Regular activity can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and wake feeling more refreshed.

Improved Mental Health

Regular exercise can boost endorphins and reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. Physical activity can also provide an increase in confidence, leading to better self-esteem and more social interaction.

Easy Exercises for Seniors

Want to get started, but not sure what to try? Whether you’re a total beginner or an exercise pro, these activities can help boost your physical and mental health:

Walking. Walking is the perfect way to get started with an exercise routine. It requires no special equipment, can be done anywhere at any time, and you can move at your own pace.

Water aerobics. Many gyms and fitness centers offer senior-focused water aerobics classes. Working out in the water reduces stress on the body’s joints while still providing strength and cardio fitness.

Tai chi. This martial arts-inspired system can increase balance, stability, and flexibility in older adults. Practiced regularly, it can also help reduce pain in those suffering from conditions such as Fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis.

Yoga. Yoga combines a series of poses with breathing and can be adapted to suit many different fitness levels. It is known to improve strength, flexibility, and balance.

Senior fitness classes. Many senior living communities and gyms/fitness centers offer classes tailored to meet the needs of older adults. Exercising with others can not only help improve fitness but can be fun and provide a new way to socialize.

Getting Started

Getting active is one of the best decisions you can make for your overall health as you age but proceed with caution (especially if you’re a newbie). Get medical clearance from your doctor, consider any health concerns, and listen to your body. Now get out there and have fun!

Posted in: Aging

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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. 

Posted in: Health

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