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"When You Rest, You Rust"

Add some weight for a welcomed exchange to life in a wheelchair.

"The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, running down their freinds, side-stepping responsibility, and pushing thier luck!" ~Author Unknown

Like it or not, all things deteriorate over time and that includes the human body. Man-made structures (think Golden Gate Bridge) can be preserved, more of less, with maintenance of structural integrity and a fresh coat of paint, but what about we humans? How can we maintain our structural integrity and joie de vivre as the internal clock keeps ticking?

According to an article from Senior Exercise Central, inactive men and women over age 30 slowly begin to lose valuable muscle tissue (along with the associated strength, endurance and balance), which accelerates by age 50, which then fades away very quickly after 65. Now factor in a lifetime of lousy diet and a sedentary lifestyle, and the deterioration is greatly hastened. Scientists call this age-related wasting away of muscle tissue "sarcopenia,” which is Greek for “poverty of flesh.” Sarcopenia is quite obvious in frail, bent over elderly people whose condition results from a combination of osteoporosis (frail bones) and muscle wasting. Although it’s best to keep this from happening in the first place, muscle loss and its related complications can be reversed at any age with weight lifting exercises. Keep in mind that when you rest, you rust!

As reported in the article Strength Training Elderly Nursing Home Patients , research conducted with 1,100 senior subjects discovered that “strength training reduced resting blood pressure, improved blood lipid profiles, increased gastrointestinal transit speed, enhanced glucose utilization, alleviated low back pain, increased bone mineral density, eased arthritic discomfort, relieved depression, and improved post coronary performance.” The article also states that during the study there were no training related injuries. The study concluded by stating, “with proper nutrition and this kind of [weight] training, lost muscle can be rebuilt. It is the safest natural prescription there is for anti-aging. Put another way, barbells and dumbbells are the antidote to sarcopenia.”

Although other types of exercise have also been shown to help slow some effects of aging, numerous studies conclude that stretching and strength training offer the greatest physical gains to older adults. But if the idea of weight lifting is too much too soon, begin with daily exercise such as walking or swimming that can easily be added to daily routines. By taking a few simple precautions, such as hiring a trained senior fitness professional to help create the right routine and easing into activity, exercise can be safe, fun, and a very welcomed exchange to life in a wheelchair.

These tips are good for any exercise program-

1. Warm up. Do some light activity like walking or other easy movement before strength or flexibility exercises. This makes the muscles and connective tissue more pliable and less prone to injury.

2. Expect some minor soreness and aches after exercise, especially if it's new to you. Contact your doctor if pain doesn't respond to over the counter pain killers or lasts for more than a couple of days. After a strenuous workout, take a cool shower, ice sore joints and muscles, eat a meal of lean protein, vegetables, and a fibrous grain like quinoa, and get a good night's sleep. Soon the pain will subside so you can keep going.

3. Share exercise with others. It's much easier to adhere to a program if you exercise with a friend or organized group. Walking/exercise programs are often organized by church groups, senior centers, shopping malls, and health clubs, or organize your own. Some cable providers even offer on-demand fitness programs for all fitness levels and interests.

4. Make exercising a habit. Instead of just sitting in front of the evening news, do some sort of strength/stretching exercises. TIP: watching TV or listening to your favorite music helps take your mind off the exercise, and before you know it, you're done!

5. Be patient. Seeing and feeling the results of exercise can take up to 6 weeks, so keep at it and enjoy the whole host of benefits of an active life. It’s taken years of inactivity to undo youthful strength and endurance, so it will take at least a few months to get some of it back.

6. Drink plenty of water! This is especially important for seniors. According to an article on dehydration found on HealthLine.com,  "The elderly are at high risk for decreased intake because their thirst mechanism may no longer function or they may be physically unable to get a drink.” At any age, even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink no less than 8 glasses of fresh water daily to help avoid injuries, fatigue, digestion problems, and many other bothersome dehydration symptoms.

Conclusion

Study after study continues to confirm that weight training excerise is literally the fountain of youth. By maintaining lean muscle mass, balance, strength, and endurance by way of weight lifting, the human body can slow its aging. If joining a gym is not your thing, make a list of exercise-type activities you enjoy and find a friend or two to help keep you going. Go online and find body-weight exercises such as squates, bench push ups, and exercise band moves, and take note of progress and strength increases. The over used but highly recognizable fitness phrase coined by fitness video pioneer Jane Fonda still holds true, “Move it or lose it!” 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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