Turning Back the (Biological) Clock
Since it was discovered 35 years ago that seniors have the ability to reverse the loss of muscle strength and endurance, the Personalized Exercise Program (PEP) at The Willows at Westborough has been on the cutting edge of senior fitness. Because PEP combines strength training and cardiovascular exercise, it is making aging a more positive, active and rewarding experience.
Using exercise to improve health
Thanks to the development of PEP and similar programs, education and opportunities to stay active and fit, such as Zumba®, cycling, swimming, ping pong, Tai chi and Pilates, baby boomers and seniors are living longer. They can look forward to maintaining and improving their health, and they may delay, shorten or eliminate periods of disability.
The aging process is not strictly age-specific; it is biological as well as chronological, meaning it is influenced by how well we care for our bodies in addition to how old we are. For example, the combination of poor nutrition, inactivity, and lack of proper health care—over which we have some control—may negatively affect the aging process. Conversely, exercise such as strength training can improve muscle mass, body fat percentage and bone density. Aerobic exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol, and aerobic capacity. Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi reduce stress and improve mental capacity.
Research demonstrates exercise increases blood flow to the brain and may delay or eliminate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Activities such as brain games, crossword puzzles, creative writing, learning a new language, genealogy, and surfing the Internet stimulate the brain and create new neural pathways of communication.
We now know the detrimental effects of inactivity and also how to reverse them through physical and mental activities, socialization, and stress management. We need to take advantage of the many programs that are available to us.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Contributed by Karen McKenzie, Director of the Personalized Exercise Program (PEP) at The Willows at Westborough