Physical Activity & Aging

What’s Best For Our Bodies As We Age?

Everyone has heard the old phrase, “Your body is your temple”, and the fact is we only get one, so treating it well is very important!  The best way to stay healthy is to stay active.  Too many people have the impression that they should drastically slow down, or even stop physical activity all together as they age, and this just isn’t the way it should be done.  If you are someone who has always been active, that is a great bonus. Try to find new hobbies or activities that include exercise that you find fun and enjoyable and try to progress as you see yourself becoming accustomed to your activity or workout. If you have very little or no experience with exercise that is ok too! Start with low impact exercises and slowly work towards a sport or hobby that you would like to participate in. The important thing to make clear is, any kind of physical activity is beneficial in some way; it will assist in healthy aging and longevity.

Here is a breakdown of what exercises can be done through the various age groups,  there is always something for everybody! Remember that we are all individuals, with our own unique set of D.N.A. that makes us who we are. Some people will always be more able-bodied than others, but do not let this define who you are, or what you can do, there is always room to do better, aim for improvement!

For people who are their 20’s :

Naturally people who are their 20’s are (more than likely) going to physically be able to do a lot more strenuous activities and sports compared to their counterparts.  The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (C.S.E.P.) recommends that young adults try to achieve 3 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. It is recommended that this be done in 1 hour intervals, 3 times a week. If finding an hour to dedicate to physical activity is too much, try to cut back to 30 minutes, 5-6 times a week.  This age group also bounces back quicker from injuries, as the healing process is faster. Here is a list of group activities that are beneficial,

  • Medium to high impact activities
  • Most or all recreational sports (basketball, soccer, tennis etc.)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming (can incorporate as a cardio workout)
  • Yoga
  • Kickboxing
  • Mountain biking
  • Running

For people who are in their 30’s :

By the time we reach our 30’s, our bodies have changed slightly.  We cannot tolerate the same level of wear and tear we did in our 20’s , and that is acceptable! Eventually our bodies change, and we need to learn how to adapt and stay healthy as we age. This age group is still young, and capable of doing most activities that someone in their 20’s does.  A tip I give heavily to any age group is be MINDFUL of what you are doing. Harsh impact and jarring motions are not good for anyone.

  • Low to Medium  impact activities
  • Walking can be one of the most important activities for this age group
  • Again, most or all recreational sports
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Kickboxing
  • Mountain biking etc.

For people in their 40’s :

For adults in who are in their 40’s the body has made some more significant changes that differ from being in your 20’s or 30’s again this is NOT a bad thing!  We just need to learn to adapt and improve, and maintain what we already have.  The body also experiences a unique reaction that tells us we have or are “working” hard enough through exercise, and the response is sweat.  Our bodies produce sweat as a reaction to try to cool down the system.   People tend to become less motivated at this age, some adults even feel that their “best years” are behind them, try to find new interests and find a variety of things to do whether that be physical or cognitive activities. This is something we don’t tend to think of though, is how to target our brains. As we age we require more stimuli to stay cognitively active, to get reactions from our neuroreceptors.  It is not as difficult as you may think either, a simple walk in a new location or in nature can be enough to trigger our “senses” of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.

  • Low impact exercises
  • Increase of low impact exercises (3-5 times a week)
  • Find more variety of interests (this helps trigger the neuroreceptors as well)
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Tai Chi
  • Aerobics (low impact)
  • Dancing
  • Resistance training
  • Low impact sports;  tennis (light jogging), water polo, horseback riding

For people in their 50’s :

Most people in their 50’s tend to start getting their “life” back; kids may be in college or shortly moving out and starting to live their own lives more independently.  Although diet is always important it is even more important role during this stage of life, especially for females. With women this is generally the most common time to experience menopause.  Another factor we don’t think of is engaging our inner “nomadic ancestor”, meaning; back in the day we used to chase down our own food such as deer and gather various plant life, like berries for example.  When doing things such as, hunting and gathering, it sets off a series of neurotransmitters in our brain that helps keep us “young” and the brain active.  When we get those neurotransmitters to fire we aid in building the myelin sheath (this is what protects the neuron and axon, which is very important for the nervous system to function properly.) The way we can reproduce this in today’s setting is to go for a walk in nature, where your senses are peaked and always finding something new to look at and smell.  Memory and “thinking” games are also important to implement in one’s life to keep cognitive functions high.

  • Low impact exercises
  • Swimming as a form of cardio (good for any age)
  • Resistance training
  • Nature walks/hikes
  • Snowshoeing
  • Kayaking

For people who are in their 60’s + :

First important fact to mention is; it’s never too late to start exercise!  People 65 + tend to be the least active of all the age groups; this can be caused by many factors but most tend to be more mental than anything else.  People tend to be their own set back by “thinking they’re too old” and that’s just not true.  This is a very important point in our life where we must become proactive and make sure we are as fit and healthy as possible to stay independent longer. Participating in any type of senior style exercise class is highly recommended, however there are some people who prefer to do their exercise privately and that’s fine too, just be sure to take all safety precautions such as; making sure someone knows where you are, and where you plan to go (if you plan to go on a long walk alone), always have a phone close by in case of emergency, and don’t try to push yourself too hard.

  • Low impact exercises  (brisk walking, stationary biking, swimming etc.)
  • Try to be active for 150 min a week (this drastically reduces risk of chronic diseases and premature death)
  • Strengthening exercises/ resistance training (such as light weights)
  • Balance and flexibility exercises

Regardless of the decade, check your local leisure guide/YMCA or counterpart for physical and social activities to be a part of .  They are fun, stimulating, educational, and definitely  physically beneficial.

Universal Home Care offers seniors exercise programs though individual groups, along with Stand Up classes funded by the Ministry of Health.  We have in home Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists, and Personal Trainers to help assist in functional strength and ability training to maintain independence.  To book a free assessment, visit http://www.universalhomecare.ca or call 705-523-9100.

Remember that every decade is important, and never forget that our body is our temple!  Not everyone needs to look like Marilyn Monroe or Tom Selleck, but it is important that we try to be and become as healthy as possible so that we can do the necessary physical requirements to stay independent, healthy, and most of all happy.

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