Research has found that bone mass can be increased in older women by physical activity. To determine whether physical activity can actually reduce the risk for broken hips, a large multicenter study was done. Nearly 10,000 women over 65 years of age were evaluated. The results of this important prospective (forward looking) study appeared in the July 15,1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In a large study of 439 adults (aged 60 and older) with osteoarthritis who did either aerobic exercise (walking) or resistance exercise (weight lifting) for 18 months, participants in the aerobic exercise group had a 10% decrease on a physical disability questionnaire, a 12% lower score on a knee pain questionnaire, and outperformed non-exercising individuals in the study on the following tests: a six-minute walk test (they walked further); the time it took them to climb and descend stairs; the time it took them to lift and carry 10 pounds; and the time it took them to get in and out of a car. In the weight-lifting, group, there was an 8% lower score on the physical disability questionnaire, 8% lower pain score, greater distance on the six-minute walk, and faster times on the lifting and carrying task and the car task than in the individuals in the study who did not exercise.

Crunch: It presents the same problem as the leg press. You flatten your lower back against the floor as you raise your head and shoulders and feel the squeeze in your abdominal muscles, then go back into an arch when you lower yourself. Although you aren’t using much weight when you do it—just a fraction of your body’s weight—you typically do lots of repetitions.
Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them. (See "How muscles work" for more detail.)
Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them. (See "How muscles work" for more detail.)

Crunch: It presents the same problem as the leg press. You flatten your lower back against the floor as you raise your head and shoulders and feel the squeeze in your abdominal muscles, then go back into an arch when you lower yourself. Although you aren’t using much weight when you do it—just a fraction of your body’s weight—you typically do lots of repetitions.
Resistance exercise (weight lifting, calisthenics): To promote and maintain health and physical independence, older adults will benefit from performing activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days each week. It is recommended that eight to 10 exercises be performed on two or more nonconsecutive days per week using the major muscle groups.
How might fitness and more brain tissue help you? Researchers have found that the fittest elders had the highest scores on tasks like coordination, scheduling, planning, and memory. And in a recent study of 1,740 adults older than 65, researchers found that the incidence of dementia in individuals who walked three or more times per week was 35% lower than those individuals who walked less than three days per week.
There's good news that should serve as an encouragement to all of us when it comes to fitness, walking endurance, and health. In a classic study of walking and mortality in 700 men enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program, the mortality rate among the men who walked less than one mile per day was nearly twice the rate of those who walked more than two miles per day. (Studies of women showed similar results). In another study, data collected on more than 41,000 men and women from 1990 to 2001 were analyzed to find the relationship between walking and mortality. It was reported that men and women who walked 30 minutes or more per day during the study period had fewer deaths than those who walked less than 30 minutes. Interestingly, even men and women who smoked or were overweight were protected from early death if they walked more than 30 minutes per day.
Aerobic activity helps older adults burn off calories, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintain joint movement, improve heart health, and increase energy levels overall. Building endurance may take some time, depending on your health and activity level. Try starting with 5-minute cardio sessions a few days a week to raise your heart rate. From there, work toward eventually completing 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days. Moderate endurance exercise for seniors includes walking briskly, tennis, and swimming; more intense aerobic activities include hiking and running.

Balance decreases as we age, and consequently, falling is a major concern for the elderly. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of every three Americans over the age of 65 falls each year, and among individuals 65-84, falls account for 87% of all fractures and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury. The good news is that physical activity can improve balance and reduce the risk of falling. The results of a study of 256 older adults (70 to 92 years of age, average age 77) who participated in tai chi for six months found that there were 52% fewer falls in the individuals who did tai chi compared to those who didn't.
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