There’s nothing positive about a sedentary lifestyle. Little or no physical activity can lead to worrisome health conditions, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and to premature death. With more people living longer than before, the value of exercise is a message that needs to be reinforced, especially among the aging population.
In a Q&A for the current issue of Stanford Medicine Newsletter, Carol Wingard, MD, former clinical director of the Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center at Stanford, discusses why it’s important for older adults to stay active and prevent age-related decline. She also explains:
We all start adult life with a certain amount of muscle, though men start out with more than women because of testosterone.
So over time there is a gradual loss of muscle that begins in the 20s. Men and women lose muscle at the same rate, but women start at a lower level. Because women start with less muscle mass, they tend to arrive at the disability threshold—the point at which it becomes difficult to carry groceries or go up the stairs—much earlier than men. That is part of why so many women are frail.
There also is a certain amount of age-related decline. A 60-year-old super-elite trained athlete may be able to run as fast as a 20-year-old, but that crossover happens physiologically between 60 and 70. However, all of us can reverse the degree of decline through exercise. Cardiovascular, strength, balance and flexibility exercises also can help prevent falls.
Wingard recommends to start slowly, especially for older patients who haven’t exercised for a while. “For someone who is able to walk, I suggest walking five minutes three times a day for a week or two. Then add one minute every week. That’s a very cheap, readily available way of doing it.”
Previously: Is standing healthier than sitting?, How sedentary behavior affects your health, Study shows frequent breaks from sitting may improve heart health, weight loss, Series looks at the physiology of sedentary behavior and Stanford hosts conference on the science of sedentary behavior
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