“We do not stop exercising because we grow old –
we grow old because we stop exercising.”
~ Dr. Kenneth Cooper
I remember my father buying Kenneth Cooper’s book Aerobics back in the 70’s. I was probably 10 or 12, but watching my dad do those jumping jacks and running around the block definitely influenced me. Yes, I’m one of those lifelong exercisers, and I encourage you to be too.
Kenneth Cooper MD is now 89 and he’s the picture of how we’d all like to age- vital and vibrant, working and still exercising.
Dr. Cooper says,“The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy.”
Yes, exercise is really, really good for your health. Turns out it’s really good for your skin too.
Age and exercise levels
We’ve all have heard the statistics about the rise in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic disease. A lot of this is rightly blamed on diet, but all of these are also diseases of inactivity.
It’s pretty common for people to back off from exercise or even stop it all together as they get older. It often starts when we get busy with work and taking care of children, and possibly older parents. Getting pulled in different directions is hard, and we get tired.
Once we get out of the habit of being active, it can be hard to start up again.
But we should. For lots of reasons.
We start losing muscle mass in our 30’s which is typically the time life begins to take over and regular exercise falls by the wayside.
This is not the time to give up. A regular exercise routine that includes resistance training and cardiovascular exercise can slow down the aging process.
A group of researchers at Charles University in the Czech Republic studied the effects of exercise in adults and found that higher level and more intense exercises have huge benefits. The results point to needing more exercise as we grow older, not less.
Why is it important for older adults to exercise?
There are so many great reasons to stay active and exercise more as we get older, rather than less. Of course, there are the avoidance reasons-avoiding weight gain, muscle loss, heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, and other chronic illnesses.
The even more motivating reasons have to do with how you look and feel.
When you’re fit and active, your energy levels are higher and you sleep better. Your circulation is improved which helps your skin look healthy and glowing. And improves how everything in your body functions.
What does exercise have to do with skin care?
Exercising three times a week for 30 minutes or more can help your skin look firmer and tighter. Here’s why:
- Exercise reduces stress and the inflammation collagen breakdown, and irritation that come with chronic stress.
- It increases circulation all over the body especially your skin. This means more nutrients and a healthy glow.
- Increased circulation means blood brings more nutrients to your skin, giving the fibroblasts that make collagen and elastin what they need to work their best
- Sweat and increased circulation deep clean your pores and help remove toxins and congestion.
- Better health shows in the sparkle in your eyes and the smile on your face. All of which bring out your natural beauty at every age.
What exercises are best as we age?
Doing a variety of different exercises is good at every age. Different types of exercise have different benefits and a well rounded program will give you the best results without risk of over use injuries. You don’t need facial exercises (but do them if you’d like). Exercising your body has a profound effect on your face.
5 Things to include in an exercise program:
Weight or resistance training
Lifting weights are excellent for maintaining muscle mass and bone health. They don’t have to be heavy and you don’t have to go to a gym (although most gyms offer classes and an opportunity to connect with others which can help keep you on track).
If the gym isn’t your thing, you can buy free weights (dumbbells) and work out at home.
If you don’t like the idea of weights, you can use resistance bands, or your own body weight. Be sure to consult a trainer if you are unsure how to use these weight training tools. A good trainer can help design an exercise routine that will keep you safe and strong.
Whatever route you choose to go, strength training is important. You lose about 5 pounds of muscle mass a decade after the age of 30. A consistent strength training routine can offset this and keep you strong, vital, and looking good as you go forward.
Weight bearing exercises
These are things like walking, running, jumping, dancing, and many sports. Weight bearing is important for bone health. The interesting thing about weight bearing exercise is that when done properly, it can be good for joint health too.
Bonus: most weight bearing exercises also provide aerobic and balance benefits too.
Balance and flexibility exercises
We all know that our balance isn’t as good as we age. The good news is that training can make it better. No one wants to fall and injure themselves. Plus working on balance and flexibility carries over to other sports and activities to make you more skilled and more confident.
Great balance training includes yoga, tai chi, a balance board, and step training.
Guess what? These activities are also weight bearing and strengthening.
Agility training improves your ability to start, stop, and change directions while maintaining your balance even in high speed situations. Faster types of dancing train your agility as do exercises that have you do different foot and body movements quickly. This is a good one to work with an instructor on.
This means doing an activity that gets your heart and breathing rates up for a a longer period of time. There are many many ideas on how to do this. Let’s make it simple. You can do aerobic activities at 3 different levels: light, moderate, or intense. And you can vary the levels, you don’t have to go intense all the time, or ever if you don’t like it.
-Light intensity is what you get when you’re cleaning your house or walking slowly. This is regular activity you do daily.
-Moderate intensity is hiking or brisk walking on level ground, mowing your lawn (with a push mower), playing doubles tennis, and any activity where your heart rate rises, you breathe a little faster, and you feel warmer. The test for this level of activity is that you can talk but not sing.
-Intense activities make your heart beat and your breathing harder. You may be able to say a few words, but then you need to get your breath. Running, fast walking or uphill walking, riding your bike fast , aerobic style exercise in the gym, there are lots of things that fall into this category.
How to get started if you haven’t been active in a while
Any activity is better than none. Start slowly with regular light activity if you’ve been inactive for a while. Moving your body periodically through out the day (avoid long periods of sitting or inactivity) is really helpful.
Gradually increase the time and intensity of your activity. See a doctor to rule out any reasons you shouldn’t exercise (there aren’t many, but just to be safe), and figure out if there are any limitations to exercise. Then just do it.
If you start slowly, you may have a few muscles that rebel on you, but you shouldn’t get so sore that you never want to do the activity again. The important is to start and to keep active every day. Before you know it, you’ll look and feel so much better and have more energy for everything in your life.
Find something you love to do or at least enjoy. Walking is an excellent place to start. In my 30 years of practice, the people that I’ve seen over 90 that are mentally sharp, active, vital, and enjoying their lives are the ones who walk every day and stay active.
If you’re already an active person. Congratulations. You’re on the right track to getting the most out of your life as you age. Don’t stop!
You Can Do This
If you’ve found yourself becoming less and less active as the years roll on, take the first steps to add daily activity into your routine. Please don’t compare yourself to anyone else or feel like it’s too late for you. Just start.
Start slowly but make a promise to yourself give a solid trial for a month. Build exercise into your routine. Being consistent is the most important thing you can do. A daily 10-15 minute walk is way more productive than an all out session at the gym and a week of pain afterward.
A regular exercise routine has amazing effects not only on how you look and feel, but you’ll find yourself sleeping better, more motivated to make healthy food choices, and in a better mood. Try it.
I’m routing for you and so is your skin. And Dr. Cooper.
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