Sheri Colberg: exercise for living your best life as you age

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Adapted from BMJ 30 Oct 21: A study from the Mayo Clinic indicates that cardiorespiratory fitness tests were a better predictor of of survival in older people than blood lipids, diabetes, smoking and hypertension.

6,500 people aged 70 or over were tested on treadmills. The fittest showed the lowest mortality rates ten years on, and the burden of other risk factors made no difference at all.

Adapted from Diabetes in Control 10 August 21: Sheri Colberg says: Aging successfully takes a lot of work, If you don’t use it, you lose it. Physical fitness peaks around the age of 25 and then declines. Balance gets worse after the age of 40, bones get thinner, muscle bulk diminishes, and even with training maximal aerobic capacity declines. Your reflexes get slower and recovery from workouts takes longer.

The good news is that you can’t stop the aging process but you can slow it down to some extent. This means paying attention to regular physical training, nutrition, sleep and stress management.

Her advice is:

In addition to regular activities like walking, cycling, and swimming, add in some faster intervals to any workout such as walking faster for ten to sixty seconds at a time during your normal walk or doing a hill profile on a cardio training machine. This will improve your cardio respiratory fitness and improve insulin sensitivity for longer. It is fine to to high intensity interval training once a week, but if you don’t already do this you need to work up to it slowly. You should vary the intensity of your workouts to allow recovery and reduce the risk of injury.

Pick at least eight to ten resistance exercises that cover the major muscle groups in the upper, core and lower body and do them two or three days a week. You can use your own body weight, weights, kettlebells, resistance bands or water bottles. Improving muscle mass and strength is critical to being able to live independently through your lifespan.

Improve your balance by standing on one leg for a minute at a time. Make sure you can grab something if you feel unsteady. Once you can do this, make it harder by moving the raised leg in different directions. My comment: Wii Fit has a lot of balance exercises included. Ballet and Yoga also include balance exercises and Tai Chi is a good starting point.

High blood sugars take a particular toll on the flexibility of joints and tendons. Stretch two or three times a week. The worse your flexibility and the older you are the longer you should hold the stretch. Up to a minute with each stretch may be necessary. My comment: There are lots of You Tube videos on stretching. You may like to use rubber bands and yoga blocks or use props such as chairs.

Weight bearing exercises to reduce bone loss can be achieved by weight training, carrying shopping in both hands, and hopping up and down on one leg at a time, and by doing body weight exercises such as press ups.

It is very important that you can get off of a chair as you get older. Practice standing up from the sitting position without using your hands. You can enhance your strength by sitting against a wall with your knees at 90 degrees. My comment: I used to do this for two minutes at a time. I would suggest 30 seconds to start with.

Last, but not least, pelvic floor exercises. You pull in all the muscles around your urethra and anus and practice a combination of long holds and pulses. This improves continence.

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