Exercise plays a significant part in maintaining health and physical fitness. Regular exercise can fight obesity and improve your heart and lungs. As you get older, it becomes especially important to be physically active in order to maintain health and independence. Setting the the four S's of exercise as daily and weekly goals can yield valuable fitness and longevity benefits.
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As the University of Maryland observes, "Muscles provide the force and strength to move the body." As you age, however, muscle rigidity may occur, as well as loss of muscle tone and even muscle tissue. Strength exercises help rebuild muscle mass. Additionally, they accelerate your metabolism, warding off obesity and diabetes -- significant health issues for the elderly. According to the National Institute on Aging, seniors 80 years old and older have exchanged their walkers for canes in as little as 10 weeks of simple muscle-building exercises. To strengthen upper arm muscles, try biceps curls using light dumbbells. Sit in an armless chair, slowly bend one elbow and lift the dumbbell toward your chest. Alternate arms for 10 to 15 repetitions. For stronger thigh and hip muscles, simply hold on to the back of a sturdy chair, and march in place.
Balance is key to remaining safe and active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year, one out of three adults in the U.S. over age 65 suffers a traumatic fall. In fact, falls account for the largest percentage of injury deaths for those over age 65. In 2008, falls were responsible for 2.1 million non-fatal injuries including head traumas, hip, ankle, hand, pelvic and spine fractures. Simple coordination and stability exercises can help prevent falls among older adults. Standing on one foot without wobbling, walking heel to toe across the room or along a line, and standing up from a sitting position without the use of your hands can all improve balance.
As you get older, you lose flexibility and elasticity in your skin and connective tissue. Your muscles tighten, and your joints lose range of motion. Flexible joints and muscles are critical to maintaining an independent lifestyle as you age. Dr. Karl Knopf, author of "Stretching for 50+," says, "When muscles are flexible, joints can align themselves in the bio-mechanical manner in which they were designed. This results in improvement in everything from our ability to move, our posture and just being able to breathe more completely." To keep your body limber, spine straighter and lungs working at full capacity, Knopf recommends bouncing toe touches, shoulder rolls and stationary jumping jacks.
Exercises that increase your stamina support the health of your respiratory and circulatory systems. They help you accomplish your daily tasks -- climbing stairs, lifting objects and housecleaning -- as well as aiding in the prevention of such diseases as diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease and stroke. Any activity that increases your heart rate -- brisk walking, swimming, dancing -- can increase your stamina. Start slowly and increase the intensity of your activity and the length of time you exercise as you become stronger. And always check with your healthcare provider before adding any new exercise to your fitness regimen.