The Health Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
We all know we're supposed to exercise, to move our muscles and be strong. And yet three-quarters of older adults don't exercise, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, despite informative articles insisting activity helps prevent many related ailments, from coronary artery disease to cognitive decline.
Dr. Sheldon Zinberg, founder of the Nifty After Fifty workout centers in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, insists people are reluctant to put a name to their problem:
"We're talking about sarcopenia, or age-related muscle wasting. All of us are familiar with the long words like osteoporosis or menopause, but, for whatever reason, we are not familiar with the major culprit that affects aging. Sarcopenia.
"Starting at about age 40, we lose 1 percent of our muscle mass each year. That accelerates to 1.5 percent at age 60, which means we're half as strong as we should be by age 80.
Zinberg, who operates fitness centers, discusses the importance of exercise for seniors.
Q. Seniors don't pay attention to the benefits of exercise?
A. No. They can improve their muscle strength from 48 to 100 percent -- although few make it to 100 percent. By improving sarcopenia, they also improve bone mineral density, cognitive decline. They will decrease falls and obesity, improve their glucose metabolism, decrease hypertension and diabetes. That's why some medical groups make exercise programs available to seniors.
Q. Isn't it the American College of Sports Medicine that said "exercise is medicine?"
A. Yes. That's why there are special exercise programs for chronic disease states such as disabling COPD and congestive heart failure.
Doctors are taught the value of exercise but not all of them internalize it. In one week, improved insulin sensitivity, decreased glucose and improved muscle metabolism of glucose can be measured.