Home Gym – Seniors: Don’t let the pandemic weigh down your workout
As we weather the coronavirus, let us consider what no one has forgotten: We are all still aging. This ‘graying’ of America (and Staten Island) is happening whether we like it or not and with it comes a host of healthcare-related challenges. The stakes of minimizing this impending burden couldn’t be higher.
Consider this: By 2030, every Baby Boomer (i.e., one of every five Americans) will be over the age of 65. By 2035, those in that age group will out-number those under 18; there will be 76.7 million in the latter group, 78 million in the former. And by 2060, 95 million Americans — nearly a quarter of the population — will be over 65.
The challenge is obviously maintaining a high quality of life for as long as possible — and doing so through healthy habits, not the least of which is regular exercise. That was something notably emphasized by Staten Island’s own Beatrice Victor, who until her death at age 98 in April 2020 was a staunch advocate for the move-it-or-lose-it philosophy.
“Don’t give up,’’ she told the Advance late in life. “Don’t just crawl into a hole because you’re getting older.”
Victor, who established the Senior Olympics of Staten Island in 1987, made walking part of her daily routine. And while there is no question about the benefits of habits like that, strength training is also crucial for those 65 and over, as it can burn fat, improve balance and forestall bone and muscle loss.
That, in turn, can help seniors maintain their independence, which is important not only for psychological reasons (self-worth, well-being, etc.) but also financial reasons. The average cost of a shared room in a nursing home is $255 a day, and only figures to climb, given that demand is quickly outstripping supply.
But this is also an issue for the younger among us. Why?
Well, regular strength training is especially important when it comes to preventing muscle and bone loss. One study showed that after age 30, we lose 10 percent of our muscle mass each decade until we turn 50, at which point the rate increases to about 15 percent a decade. Bone mass decreases at a similar pace — about one percent per year after the age of 30, and three times as fast after the age of 70 — the result being that some 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, and some 43 million fall victim to thinning bones.
And there’s one surprising area of the body that when injured could lead to a premature death: the hips
Actually, about 300,000 people in the U.S. suffer a hip fracture each year (three-quarters of them women), with dire results. One study showed that between 14 and 58 percent of those over 60 who suffer from these fractures die within a year and most hip fractures are the result of falls. These largely preventable falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among those 65-plus.
Look, it’s all tied together.
A senior that does the proper strength training can improve his or her muscle and bone mass, not to mention balance. Their likelihood of falls, osteoporosis and hip fractures decreases. And their quality of life and chances of maintaining independence increase.
I tell my patients, and experts recommend, that those 65 and over taking up strength training should start slow — that at first they work out two days a week, and then ramp up to three or four sessions a week, each lasting 20 to 30 minutes. Experts also recommend hitting as many muscle groups as possible — trunk, arms, back, chest, hips, legs and shoulders — and increasing the resistance by 10 percent each week.
The most important exercises involve pushing, pulling, carrying, hinging at the hips and squatting. Push-ups, whether of the conventional variety or against a wall, are one highly recommended exercise. Squats, shoulder presses and lunges are others.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The abilities of each person are going to vary. It’s a matter of each person doing whatever they can, as often as they can. Simply put, don’t let this pandemic take away your daily walk, run or lift. Your job is to stay healthy beyond this crisis, and that means staying active during it.
Doctor Mike Varshavski is a primary care physician at Chatham (N.J.) Family Medicine who grew up on Staten Island. He is a leading health & lifestyle expert who spotlights the value of preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle choices to over 15 million followers on his social media platforms and YouTube channel. Learn more at https://www.doctormikemedia.com/
Home Gym – Seniors: Don’t let the pandemic weigh down your workout]
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