Dos and Don’ts for Senior Fitness

Staying active helps you live longer, healthier lives. Did you know that it can also improve your brain health?

A recent study on Proceedings of the Mayo Clinic suggests that cardiovascular exercises like walking, jogging, and cycling increase your gray matter and brain volume, which studies have found can slow cognitive changes associated with aging.

This comes as no surprise to John-Paul H. Rue, MD, an orthopedic and sports medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “This confirms what many doctors and sports coaches have long said,” he says. “In addition to the obvious benefits, like stronger muscles and healthier heart and lung function, there is now growing evidence of improved cognitive function.”

We asked Rue and Thanu Jey, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and director of the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto, how to exercise safely as you age.

MAKE Choose wisely.

Choose activities that are easy on your joints, says Jey. Good choices are brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, and aqua aerobics. Avoid jumping, which has an additional impact on your ankle, knee and hip joints and increases your risk of falling.

DO NOT start without your doctor’s consent.

“Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine,” says Rue. Your doctor will check your heart and lungs and make sure your new routine is right for you.

MAKE use good form.

Concentrate on form and technique, especially when starting a new activity. “The key to avoiding injury from overuse is to ensure proper form,” says Rue.

DO NOT overdo it.

Take it easy and slow at first. If you are walking or cycling, start with a short distance or a short duration. If using weights or resistance, use light weights or low resistance. “Once your body gets used to it, gradually increase the intensity or distance,” says Rue.

MAKE extent.

Take a few minutes before and after your workout to stretch, says Rue. Stretching helps you stay flexible and prevent injury. Try stretches for your upper body, lower body, neck, and back. Check out an online yoga class.

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Jothi Venkat

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