Exercising While Aging

According to the CDC, the average 75y.o. suffers from 3 chronic medical conditions, and takes 5 prescriptions! Most people over 65 have hypertension, 2/3 are overweight, and nearly 20% have diabetes. The risk for heart disease is tripled! The leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and stroke – which together account for 61% of deaths in this age group.

People with heart disease are at far greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Having diabetes increases your risk of developing dementia by 65%, and high cholesterol increases your risk by 43%. The temporal lobe atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease – this is our mental dictionary. A simple test is recalling a list of words half an hour after being given them. Don’t fret! Exercise can actually help the brain accommodate for losses!

There has been researched and documented proof that exercise addresses all of these risks for decades, and yet more than 1/3 of people over 65 lead a sedentary lifestyle.

How does exercise help?
1. It strengthens the cardiovascular system. A strong heart and strong lungs lowers your resting blood pressure. It also helps your vessels stay flexible, and counteract the hardening. This helps bring oxygen to the brain, and even after an injury to the brain, people who participate in aerobic exercise improve scores on cognitive tests!
2. It regulates fuel. Exercise helps regulate insulin and glucose to prevent or manage diabetes. People with diabetes are 77% more likely to develop dementia
3. It reduces obesity. Obesity puts you at 6x the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and therefore dementia. Studies show that people increase their caloric intake after retirement. Be careful and be mindful of what you eat. Exercise will burn calories as well as reduce your appetite.
4. It elevates your stress threshold. If you feel like you are getting overwhelmed by less stress, exercise will help. Part of the way this works is that exercise helps take all the waste out of our bodies and brains quicker. Waste and free radicals can build up and lead to greater feelings of stress.
5. It lifts your mood. This has to do that that balance of neurotransmitters, but also because people who exercise more tend to stay more mobile and more social.
6. It boosts the immune system. Exercise boosts antibodies and lymphocytes, which help you fight off infections and viruses but also help the body become alert if a cancer develops! That’s right – being active helps fight against certain cancers! It also help stop the immune system stop that chronic inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
7. It fortifies your bones. Exercise and strength training stresses the bones to prevent osteoporosis. More women die annually from a fractured hip than breast cancer.
8. It boosts motivation. Exercise helps you stay engaged and active as you age, and helps keep dopamine from depleting.
9. It fosters neuroplasticity. Aerobic exercise builds a strong brain that can guard against neurodegenerative diseases. It also keeps the brain learning and remembering, and making more robust connections to handle any damage it may experience.