Friday, June 19 2015
What is healthy aging? How does one effectively offset or slow the effects of aging? In other words, how does one age gracefully? Obviously many factors can influence how we age: genetics, environment and lifestyle. In this blog, I would like to look at what the research points to as the biggest determinant of healthy aging, which is lifestyle and physical fitness. Several studies have clearly shown that physical fitness is an important predictor of both cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. In addition it is a good predictor of being able to live an independent life at old age.
However, before we delve into the subject of physical fitness, it is important to differentiate between three different but inter-related concepts: physical activity, physical exercise, and physical fitness. Physical activity refers to any body movement produced by muscle action that increases energy expenditure. Physical exercise refers to planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful physical activity. Physical fitness is the capacity to perform physical exercise. Physical fitness makes reference to the full range of physical qualities, such as, aerobic capacity, strength, speed, agility, coordination, and flexibility. Thus, daily exercise should be orientated towards increasing daily physical activity and improving physical fitness.
One aspect of improving physical fitness is aerobic exercise. The results of aerobic exercise, such as, walking are very positive, especially for cardiovascular health. These improvements are independent of race, sex, age, and body mass index. The research shows that a program of regular aerobic exercise of three to six months duration can improve aerobic capacity by 15%–30%. A training frequency of 3–5 days a week is recommended, and the research indicates that it is preferable to avoid single, hard bouts of exercise once a week. Training intensity should be at some 55%/65%–90% of the maximum heart rate, or of the maximum reserve heart rate (maximum HR –rest HR) (ACSM 1998)
Strength training or resistance training is another aspect of improving physical fitness. Strength training has been shown to be the most effective method for developing skeletomuscular strength, and it is currently prescribed by many major health organizations for improving health and fitness. Research demonstrates that resistance training reduces the risk factors associated with coronary heart disease, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, and colon cancer; it prevents osteoporosis, promotes weight loss and weight maintenance, and likewise, improves dynamic stability, preserves functional capacity, and fosters psychological welfare. These benefits can be safely obtained when an individualized program is prescribed. In the American College of Sports Medicine’s position stand that, “resistance training should be an integral part of any adult fitness program and should be of sufficient intensity to enhance strength, muscular endurance, and maintain fat-free mass. Resistance training should be progressive in nature, individualized, and provide a stimulus to all the major muscle groups.” In essence, it is imperative that you do what it takes TODAY even eliciting the help of a professional in helping you reach a certain level of age defying physical fitness.