Exercise Helps Slow the Clock on Reaching "Old Age"

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • What constitutes old? Several studies recently have suggested that people consider old age beginning as early at “59 years, two months and two weeks,” at the age of 68 or at 80. So which is it?

    It turns out that “old age” and being “elderly” isn’t so easily quantifiable. A 2009 study from the Pew Charitable Trusts asked about age as well as abilities and appearance to determine people’s concept of old age. The 2,969 participants described old age as follows:

    • Turns 85 – Agreed to by 79 percent of the respondents.
    • Can’t live independently – Agreed to by 76 percent of respondents.
    • Can’t drive a car – Agreed to by 66 percent of respondents.
    • Turns 75 – Agreed to by 62 percent of respondents.
    • Frequently forgets familiar names – Agreed to by 51 percent of respondents.  
    • Finds his/her health is failing – Agreed to by 47 percent of respondents.
    • Has trouble walking up stairs – Agreed to by 45 percent of respondents.
    • Has bladder control problems – Agreed to by 42 percent of respondents.
    • Is no longer sexually active – Agreed to by 33 percent of respondents.
    • Turns 65 – Agreed to by 32 percent of respondents.
    • Retires from work – Agreed to by 23 percent of respondents.
    • Has grandchildren – Agreed to by 15 percent of respondents.
    • Has gray hair – Agreed to by 13 percent of respondents.

    So why am I writing about this in a sharepost for this site? It turns out that several of these areas – such driving a car, overall health, walking up stairs and even a person’s sex life -- can be improved through exercise, thus allowing you to function independently for a longer time as you age.

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    A new study out of the University of Florida pointed out that regular exercise – including walking -- significantly decreases the chance of becoming physically disabled as we age. The study involved 1,635 sedentary men and women between the ages of 70 and 89 years of age who had physical limitations but were able to walk 400 meters. These participants took part in the study for an average of 2.6 years.

    The participants were randomly assigned into groups. One of those groups participated in a structured moderate-intensity physical activity program that was conducted twice a week at a center and 3-4 times a week at home. This program included aerobic, resistance and flexibility training activities. The other group participated in a health education program that provided workshops on topics for older adults and stretching exercises for the upper body.

    During the study, the researchers gauged whether the participants could no longer walk 400 meters. They found that the participants who took part in the structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program had less major mobility disability over the course of the study when compared to the group that only participated in the health education program.  The researchers noted that the ability to walk without assistance is a critical characteristic of being able to function independently.

    So what about those other areas that I mentioned? Flexibility exercises help your neck and back have the ability to turn in the driver’s seat to check for merging cars and your foot to have the flexibility to move quickly from the gas pedal to the break. Climbing stairs actually can help you maintain strength in your lower body. You just need to work on flexibility and balance exercises along with walking in order to build leg strength and confidence in order to continue to be able to climb stairs as you age. And the Mayo Clinic pointed out that regular physical activity leads to enhanced arousal for women and helps men avoid issues with erectile dysfunction.

  • So get off the couch and start exercising!!

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    Primary Source for This Sharepost:

    Adams, S. (2013). Old age ‘begins at 59 years, two months and two weeks’. The Telegraph.

    Allon, J. (2014). Old age begins much later than you might expect. Salon.

    Mayo Clinic. (2014). Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity.

    Pahor, M., et al. (2014). Effect of structured physical activity on prevention of major mobility disability in older adults: The LIFE study randomized clinical trial. JAMA.

    Pew Research. (2009). Growing old in America: Expectations vs. reality.

    Weeks, L. (2013). An age-old problem: Who is ‘elderly’? NPR.

Published On: May 31, 2014