Is It Aging or Deconditioning?

By Linda Haught

seniorsAccording to the National Institute on Aging most of what we attribute to aging is really deconditioning. We become more inactive as we get older, and our bodies respond by becoming less capable. Hard work is what causes a body to be strong.

One example of this is standing up for congregational singing in church. A number of seniors have told me that this has gotten so much harder for them, and they have to hoist themselves up by grabbing the pew in front of them or their chair. They usually say something like, “Well, I’m getting older, and I just can’t do this anymore.”

But, what they should say is “I’m not going to take this sitting down. I’m going to get that muscle strength back.” How can they do this? By exercising their leg muscles. Sit in a chair and stand up 10 times using both hands on the chair. Skip a day and then do it again. Continue this every other day until you can do it 15 times. Then try it with just one hand touching the chair. Keep working at this every other day until you can stand up without using any hands.

One other example of this deconditioning occurred in my senior exercise class. My seniors commented how hard it was to climb four flights of steps to get up to the indoor track. Then at the end of the semester they were surprised to find that it wasn’t hard anymore,

By the time people reach 50, there is considerable osteoarthritis and cartilage deterioration in the joints whether they’re aware of it or not. It’s easy to use arthritis as an excuse for not exercising. I can recall a quote from Dr. John Bland in an arthritis magazine. He said, “Exercise may hurt an arthritic, but not exercising damages the joints.” A person with arthritis needs to start low and build very gradually.

Many people find themselves getting depressed more easily as they age. Recently a study came out in one of the major medical journals concluding that exercise greatly influences emotional well-being in Senior citizens. Vigorous exercise causes the brain to release those feel-good chemicals called endorphins. One doctor said that exercise is the most neglected antidepressant.

Our goal should be to run out of life before we run out of fitness. It’s great to have energy and feel functional instead of decrepit.

Note: Check with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program.

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