Finding the Right Exercise
Grocery store and gas station checkout lanes try to seduce us with candy bars and junk food, but a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can reduce inflammation. We also need to consume a sufficient amount of protein to maintain our musculature. And that maintenance also requires that we exert effort and resist the allure of the couch. But what kind of exercise should you consider to fight inflammaging? It mostly depends on what you like, and the current physical shape of your body.
For Bonnie Frankel (77), exercise has always been a way of life. When she entered junior college at age 44, she fell in love with running track, and became the oldest woman ever to compete in a Division One collegiate sport. Later, she began training for the Olympic trials at 60. Today she runs 25 to 30 miles per week.
But you don’t have to be an Olympic-level athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. Frankel believes that these benefits are available to anyone at any age. Her 2019 book “Bonnie’s Theory: Finding the Right Exercise,” explains how to get started.
“For beginners, I would recommend to start slowly with low impact exercises such as walking, cycling, and water exercises. Exercising outdoors is even better as you get the natural vitamin D, and are able to inhale fresh air. Also, try a yoga class or a stretch class and lift weights a couple days a week. I suggest you modify your exercise routine to find out what feels best for you,” Frankel said.
You should also strive to be mindful about your movement. Throughout her life, Frankel has had to tailor her workouts to her circumstances. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured multiple surgeries in her thirties, and at 56, she had hip surgery. But with each challenge, Frankel found healing through movement.
“I rehabilitated myself through each surgery to regain and return my body and mind to be healthy and fit by engaging in a variety of exercises and sports,” Frankel said. “My inspiration to stay healthy today is to keep challenging myself to explore different workouts.”
That mindset of persistence and resilience makes all the difference between those who rapidly decline after injury and those who recover. Neither of these traits has anything to do with muscles or physical fitness, but in the end, they make all the difference.
But your motivation to exercise needn’t rest on your determination alone. The best exercise is something you enjoy and makes you feel good—and because you enjoy it, you’re more likely to sustain it. But give some thought to maintaining your muscle. If you don’t have some landscaping work to do in the yard or something else that involves lifting and moving things, you may need to make other efforts. Servante recommends that elders try to fit in some form of resistance or weight-bearing exercises.
“Resistance training is one of the most effective means of maintaining healthy body composition and decreasing the risks of bone loss and muscular strength that come with aging. Especially for post-menopausal women, resistance training can be highly beneficial in counteracting the decrease in insulin sensitivity,” Servante said.
Your character also has other effects on top of helping you persist in your fitness routine and eat well. That’s because mindset also plays a substantial role in how well you age, says Blanca Garcia, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Health Canal.
“The first thing I noticed with people that are over 70 that are fit and healthy and set them apart from someone that may not be so healthy is the positive attitude,” Garcia said. “Most people with a positive disposition will often feel good and want to do activities that make them feel even better. They are more likely to be social and enjoy taking walks and having exercise buddies.”
Maintaining an upbeat attitude is often reflected in the company we keep. But this can be a challenge as we grow older. If old friends pass away, and younger family members are too busy to provide encouragement and support, elders can fall into loneliness and despair. Garcia says seniors who are more proactive in seeking a community support system are more likely to thrive.
“Looking for senior centers and making new friends into older age can really help a person achieve health goals,” she said.
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