The Benefits of Exercise for Aging
I’m sure at this point everyone has heard that exercising is good for your health and will keep you young. Exercising can help you lower your cholesterol and triglycerides as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Today I am going to talk about some of the less well know benefits of exercise for older people.
A recent study has shown that even short exercise sessions can improve memory in elderly adults. The study used 50 adults aged 50 to 85, half who were mentally healthy and half who had memory problems. They broke the subjects into two groups, one group exercised for 6 minutes while the other group did not. Both groups were shown 20 images then were tested to see how many they recalled an hour later.
The group that exercised were much better at recalling the images. Those with memory problems had a larger boost in memory than the healthy adults. The researchers believe that the improvement in memory is due to exercising stimulating the release of a chemical named norepinephrine, which has a strong influence on memory. This development could help to improve quality of life for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
A second study showed that exercising can improve elderly people’s attitude toward getting older. Women aged 70 to 93 were split into 3 groups for this 12 week study. One group exercised 3 times a week, which included riding a stationary bike, lifting weights and working on improving their balance. The second group that received computer training in a classroom environment. The third group did not change their behavior.
All three groups were asked how the felt about getting older at the beginning and the end of the study. All three groups had similar scores at the beginning. The group that exercised improved significantly while the group that was trained on computers declined slightly. The women who exercised found that as they exercised more they found it to be rewarding for its own sake.
The final benefit of exercising I will tell you about today is improved muscle reserve. Organ reserve is the amount of excess organ capacity for supporting life. As we age both our muscle mass as well as our organ reserve decreases. Exercising, especially weight lifting helps us maintain or even gain lean muscle mass. Skeletal muscle is strongly correlated to organ reserve and high organ reserve is the best predictor of longevity. If you are interested in living longer, you should start weight lifting.