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Why exercise is vital for healthy aging

Rosa Anderson - Jones
Why exercise is vital for healthy aging

Real talk. I have spent a lot of time over the past 4 weeks in the Dunedin hospital wards while both of my grandparents get the support that they need…. and I don’t think I have ever been more motivated to take care of myself and build strength.

Both of my grandparents have kept SO well until this point. They were runners, race walkers, speed skaters, hurdlers, and dancers – and walked Ross Creek every day since the 1970s. My grandma was also interested in naturopathy WAYYY before it was trendy. They’ve been incredible role models in my life, dragging my moany teenage self on 8-hour tramps or down to the Caledonian for laps in the school holidays.

And although they've looked after themselves, it is still so hugely apparent how ongoing strength training can really support aging bodies – something that wasn't hugely understood in this era, especially for women.

Although age is inevitable, we truly do have the power to take control of our health in ways that offer us a better quality of life into our old age. If I am lucky enough to live as long as my grandparents have up until this point, here are a few things I will continue to hold onto.

It’s a privilege to be able to exercise

If you’re well and able, don’t take that for granted. But also know that if/when limitations show up, there are always options for you. Keep moving, take deep breaths… and don’t take your ability for granted. Movement is medicine.

Strength work is KEY to healthy aging

Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetimes. And while declining muscle mass is part of aging, it does not mean you are helpless to stop it. It takes hard work and dedication, but it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it.

You are your own best teacher, trainer, and advocate

The hospital system is overloaded, there are staff shortages, and we’re living amongst an aging population. So educate yourself. Get to know your why. Science is ever-evolving and accessible, so learn WHY we need exercise. Learn WHY strength training is vital to aging. Understanding the meaning and importance behind our movement is a sure way to stay motivated and make habits that we keep for life.

Keep your bones strong

By stressing (or exercising) your bones, strength training can lower the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, reducing the risk of other diseases.

Enhance your quality of life

Strength training enhances your quality of life and improves your ability to do everyday activities. Strength training can also protect your joints from injury. Building muscle also can contribute to better balance and may reduce your risk of falls – or allow you to better protect yourself if you do fall.

Manage chronic conditions

Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes.

Sharpen your mind

Research suggests that regular strength training and aerobic exercise may help improve thinking and learning skills for older adults. Barre classes significantly improve your mind-to-body connection, enhancing your ability to connect with your balance, stability, and strength.

So what's my 'why'?

I want to exercise for my future self – for the ongoing quality of life, for longevity and to ensure I can continue to move with confidence as I age.

As my grandma always said, “how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

As we move into 2023 together, I encourage you to find your why.

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