Age-Friendly Fitness: How to Boost Your Health with Exercise and Why it Matters

Age-Friendly Fitness: How to Boost Your Health with Exercise and Why it Matters

Content derived from DocTalk with Matthew Jones, Exercise Specialist

0:32 | Why is exercise important?
Exercise is the number one way to prevent chronic disease and retain your quality of life as you age.
Regular exercise can:

  • improve your body composition
  • improve your cardiovascular output
  • increase your body’s defense mechanisms
  • increase your overall functionality

0:58 | How can I make sure I am safe when I exercise?
Exercise is just like any other form of medication; it needs to be taken in the correct dosage. When determining the dosage of your exercise, you want to use the FITT principle:

  • Frequency: How often you’re exercising
  • Intensity: How challenging your workouts are
  • Time: The amount of time you spend exercising
  • Type: The type of exercise you’re doing

When you take these things into consideration, it makes exercise safer because it becomes tailored to your personal experience level and personal goals.

1:40 | What type of exercise is best?
The best exercise is the one you can do consistently. You can start by finding gaps in your training. For instance, if you go on regular walks, but you never strength train, you may want to consider adding resistance training into your regimen. Resistance training will help to improve your strength and balance. It’s also important to challenge yourself. If you’re always comfortable with the exercise you’re doing, you won’t make as much progress than if you’re challenging yourself. It’s important to remember that progress is not made in the comfort zone. Additionally, if you want to continue seeing the benefits of an exercise, you must keep doing that exercise; consistency is key!

2:30 | Why do I get aches and pains when I exercise?
Aches and pains are the most common side effect of exercise. When you exercise, you break down tissue in your body, which causes soreness. When you’re exercising, you’re doing this in a controlled manner. Similar to when you break a bone and it heals and repairs, it comes back stronger. The same things are happening with your muscles when you’re exercising. You’re intentionally breaking down the muscle tissue, so they come back stronger and more effective. As long as you apply the FITT principle, exercise will be safe. You can also decrease the amount of soreness that you feel after exercise with getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and drinking enough water. A lot of the soreness that you feel after exercise comes from not being hydrated. 

3:18 | How long do I need to exercise to see a benefit?
It depends on the benefit you’re looking for.

Let’s look at cardiovascular fitness:

  • Cardiovascular fitness comes from your blood and your lungs, and your ability to deliver oxygen.
  • Your blood recycles every 90 days. This means that if you remain consistent with cardiovascular exercise for 90 days, all the blood in your body will be enriched with the benefits of that exercise. As long as you continue this exercise, you will continue to keep those benefits.
  • It can take about two weeks for you to start noticing improvements with regular cardiovascular exercise (e.g., walking, jogging, swimming, etc.).

Now, let’s look at resistance training:

  • With resistance training, we make our muscles work harder. Unlike cardiovascular fitness, working out our muscles comes from our nervous system.
  • You will likely see your strength, balance and coordination improve within one month. You may also notice changes to your body composition and circumference measurements, as well as an increase in your lean mass and a decrease in your fat mass.
  • A consistent year of resistance training can make permanent, positive changes to your body.

The benefits of exercise start immediately after your first session. You’re going to feel better, have a sense of accomplishment, and you’re probably going to sleeping better that night. If you’re not seeing the benefits from exercise, you’re either not challenging yourself enough, or you’re not doing the type of exercise that results in the benefit you’re looking for. Again, it’s important to remember: always apply the FITT principle, and evaluate your goals and make sure you’re doing exercises that will you give you the outcomes you want.

5:37 | Where should I start?

This will depend on your limitations. If you are pain free, you can start with a lot of the basic recommendations:

  • 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity a day (low to moderate, like walking)
  • Resistance training two to three times a week
  • Stretching two to three times a week

If you’re limited in your mobility or you have chronic pain, a good place to start would be something like physical therapy, where you can build confidence in your movement. It can be really hard to start an exercise program if the act of standing for five minutes causes pain in the lower back. You can’t expect yourself to walk a mile if just standing in place causes pain, and physical therapy is great for helping to ease some of those pain symptoms.

Once you’re more comfortable with movement, you can begin to move into a more well-rounded routine, including things like cardio and strength training. 

7:15 | Can I use an old exercise program?
The best answer is, maybe. I would start by asking yourself two questions:

  1. Are my goals the same as they were when this plan was created?
  2. Will this program get me closer to the goals I have now, or further away?

You’re a different person now than you were then. Exercise hasn’t changed, but you have. However, if the answers are yes and it’s something you’re familiar with, it might be a great place to start. One of the main barriers to starting an exercise program is just not knowing what to do, so if this is something you’ve done in the past and it gets you started so you can be consistent, then I say go for it.

8:14 | Should I set goals and track my progress?
Absolutely. It’s important to have a direction to put your effort into, and tracking your progress helps you stay accountable to your goals. Without a trainer, it’s good to do research into what types of exercise give you which outcomes. For instance, to improve your cardiovascular fitness, you need to be doing cardiovascular activity. To build your strength and balance, you need to do resistance training. There are many different forms of exercise, so find what works for you and continue challenging yourself.

Regardless of the exercise, it is highly recommended to seek help from a medical professional. Prescribing yourself exercise is similar to going on YouTube to learn how to fix your car. You could probably do it yourself, but it might be in your best interest to take it to a mechanic. Additionally, personal trainers are not recommended because you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to experience level, and you’re putting your safety in their hands. I would recommend a sports medicine doctor, a physical therapist, or even an exercise specialist instead. These professions are trained to work with all different skill levels and all different limitations. This means you may need to invest a little bit into your exercise, but that means you’re investing in your health and making it a priority.

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Additional Resources:
Get help from Valley’s Sports Medicine Clinic
Creating an exercise program at home
Get tips for resistance/strength training at home
Stretching basics

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