Exercise and the Elderly
|Two older women are exercising using an elastic resistance band.|
Absent chores to do and children to care for, exposed to exaggerated media reports of street crime, and given the seductive attractions of television and computers, drugs and alcohol, microwave and 'fast' food, is it any wonder that the majority of today's seniors are, like increasing numbers of their younger counterparts, out-of-shape 'couch potatoes?' It has been estimated that fewer than 34% of Americans over 65 are as active as they should be for optimal health (http://www.census.gov).
The health costs of this inactive and self-indulgent lifestyle are many and serious. All of the normal physical changes associated with increasing age - decreased cardiac efficiency, decreased respiratory capacity, reduced muscle mass, bone density, and flexibility, slowed reaction time - are exaggerated, and the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, stroke, cancer, arthritis, fractures, and, as recent evidence suggests, dementia, is increased. On a more basic level, the ability to perform day-to-day activities declines: to walk without falling, to rise from a chair or get in and out of a car unaided, to carry a bag of groceries, to tie shoes or hook a bra. Depression, a seldom-recognized and under-treated problem among the elderly, is also a common by-product of inactivity. These problems are worsened when accompanied by cognitive loss and make caring for the person quite difficult.