Maximise Your Lifespan
Although family history can influence how long a person may live, most of the factors that affect our lifespan are within our control. Good nutrition, regular moderate intensity exercise and adequate periods of rest are certainly in our control. These factors go a long way not only to help us in reaching our potential maximum age, but also in insuring that we remain independent and capable to continue carrying out all the things we like to do. None of the effects of ageing can be stopped but with specifically targeted exercises we can begin to be in control of our rate of decline.
Every living cell in our body requires a constant supply of oxygen and the removal of carbon dioxide. Our respiratory system brings air into our lungs and transfers oxygen onto our blood so that this vital exchange of gases can occur. Our heart and lung capacity and the muscles that control these organs progressively decrease with age. So there is less reserve capacity to deal with additional demands when needed. Cardiovascular function is the most important and easiest body system to exercise. If you do nothing else, then regularly give your heart and lungs a work out.††
Bones may appear to be lifeless organs but they are composed of active cells and tissues. Up to 10% of an adultís skeleton may be replaced annually in response to changing mechanical demands. Bones gradually lose density and strength after age 40. A good intake of calcium and vitamin D, along with regular weight bearing exercise strengthens bones. Weight bearing exercise in older people can reverse decreases in bone strength and mass, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.†
Poor posture and incorrectly moving joints gradually erode cartilage and ligaments. So as you age it becomes more important to practice the finesse of good movement. Joint mobility is improved with regular movement.
Loss of muscle mass and tone occurs with age, diminishing mobility and good posture. Exercise mitigates this loss of muscle mass and tone. It reinforces mobility. When properly performed, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being. This includes increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, improved joint function and postural support. This reduces the potential for accidental injury from everyday activities.
Some strength stimulus is required throughout your entire life. Older people who take up gentle weight training can prevent some of the loss of muscle and bone tissue that normally accompanies ageing and even regain some functional strength. By doing so they become less frail. It is possible to avoid or defer some types of physical disability. Weight-bearing exercise also helps to prevent osteoporosis. The benefits of weight training for older people have been confirmed by studies of people who began engaging in it even in their 80s and 90s. Refer www.cotavic.org.au/healthy__and__active_ageing/living_longer Program. †††
Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific skeletal muscle (or muscle group) is deliberately elongated in order to improve the muscle's elasticity and reaffirm comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Stretching increases muscle compliance and tendon responsiveness with your intended movement. It is common for athletes to stretch before and after exercise in order to reduce injury and increase performance. The same is true for everyone.
Our Brain and Nervous System†††
Physical exercise is not only a low-cost and effective way to improve your health but also an important component in improving brain health. Your brain is nourished by one of your body's richest networks of blood vessels. With each heartbeat, arteries carry 20% of your blood to your brain, where billions of cells use up around 20% of the oxygen and fuel that your blood carries. Scientists have established that regular aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and helps to support formation of new neural and vascular connections. Physical exercise has been shown to improve attention, reasoning and components of memory.
Exercise also has positive effects when it comes to protecting the brain from the onslaught of excessive stress. It increases the overall tone of our parasympathetic nervous system causing an improved ability to relax, decreasing stress and enhancing healthy sleep. Prolonged exposure to stressful situations inhibits the brainís ability to generate new neurons (neurogenesis). Exercise by contrast has been proven to do the opposite and it actually boosts the production of new brain cells.
Requirements for Aged Fitness
In youth, exercise is often tailored specifically for the particular sports in which you choose to participate. But in healthy ageing, it is more important to reinforce all the bodyís systems because decline in one system has a greater impact on the others. No one body system operates in isolation, and in the second half of our lives, a more inclusive fitness regime is required that mutually reinforces our capacity across all our physical needs.