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Feature Articles: Exercise


Exercise Can Keep You Young  

Linda Rellergert, Nutrition Specialist in St. Charles County
University of Missouri Extension



People of all ages and physical conditions have much to gain from exercise and from staying physically active. They also have much to lose if they become physically inactive—some degree of health and ability, for example. A regular exercise program is one way to avoid some of the negative aspects of aging, to stay young.


We now know from reliable scientific studies that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay some diseases and disabilities as people grow older, even for those over 90. In some cases, it can even improve health for people who already have diseases and disabilities, it it’s done on a long-term, regular basis.


Adults benefit most from participating in four types of exercises. Endurance exercises are activities that increase breathing and heart rate. They improve the health of heart, lungs and circulatory system, and improve stamina, which makes climbing stairs or grocery shopping more doable.


Endurance exercises also may delay or prevent many diseases, such as diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, and stroke.


Strength exercises build muscles, making one stronger. The result can be continued independence, the ability to do things for one’s self and the feelings of confidence that brings. Strength exercises also help keep weight and blood sugar in check, as well as help prevent osteoporosis.


Balance exercises help prevent falls, especially when doing activities like walking on uneven terrain or climbing ladders. Some balance exercises build up leg muscles, while others provide practice in controlling the body while doing simple activities like standing on one leg.


Flexibility exercises are stretching exercises. They help keep the body limber by stretching muscles and the tissues that hold bones and muscles in place. These exercises can help prevent injuries and falls, and improve the ability to do certain activities like reaching up or turning the head to watch for approaching cars.


The National Institute on Aging has developed a wonderful book called “Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging.” The book is packed with information about fitness and exercise, as well as illustrated instructions for doing all four types of exercises. You can print a copy of the book yourself right off the Internet at: 


Another excellent resource is ACSM Fitness Book. The American College of Sports Medicine designed this book as a step-by-step fitness program. It includes a section on determining your fitness level and then helps you develop a plan of activities to improve your fitness in all four areas of strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. This can be purchased through local bookstores; the ISBN is 0-880011-783-4.


If you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50, you should check with your doctor first if you plan to start doing vigorous, as opposed to moderate, physical activities. In addition, check with your doctor before starting to exercise if you have any of the following:


  • Any new, undiagnosed symptom
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular, rapid, or fluttery heart beat
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Significant, ongoing weight loss that hasn’t been diagnosed
  • Infections such as pneumonia, accompanied by fever
  • Fever itself, which can cause dehydration and a rapid heart beat
  • Acute deep-vein thrombosis (blood clot)
  • A hernia that is causing symptoms
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Joint swelling
  • Persistent pain or trouble walking after you have fallen
  • Certain eye conditions, such as bleeding in the retina or detached retina
  • Before you exercise after a cataract or lens implant, or after laser treatment or other eye surgery, check with your physician



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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