Life expectancy in the US is generally on the rise. While in 1900 the average life expectancy was 47.3 years, it increased to 68.2 years in 1950 and to 78.9 years in 2019. Advances are mainly due to improvements in sanitary measures and the healthcare system. However, increases in longevity are not always accompanied by a better quality of life.
In addition to longevity, we need to consider the maintenance of the state of functional independence (ability to carry out activities of daily living). In old age, the elderly go through many physiological changes that contribute to the worsening of their quality of life. Exercise has a fundamental role in maintaining functional independence.
With advancing age, there is a decrease in lean body mass and its replacement by adipose tissue, thus the caloric expenditure in old age tends to decrease, which favors the increase of obesity and all the problems arising from it. The self-indulgence shown by the elderly is a problem, as it accelerates the appearance of these effects. It is important to overcome sluggishness, start a practice of physical activity and receive the countless benefits that can be achieved in spite of the age.
Among the benefits are increased energy expenditure and cardiorespiratory conditioning, a preventive factor for the onset of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, mental diseases and cancer.
Exercise is important to digestion, and to a healthy condition of body and mind. You need physical exercise.Ellen G. White. Counsels on Diet and Foods p. 103
One of the effects of the arrival of old age is the decrease in the production of gastric and pancreatic juices. Digestion slows down, food stays in the stomach longer. It increases the risk of gastritis and reflux, a common complaint among the elderly. Many complain of a large production of gas in the stomach or intestine. As the transit time of the digestive tract is slowing down, more fermentation takes place. A walk right after a meal can alleviate all of these symptoms.
Exercise improves muscle tone in the whole body. Our gastrointestinal tract is made up of involuntary smooth muscle. When we include a daily exercise routine, intestinal transit normalizes in most cases, and we achieve good results that promote better quality of life for the elderly.
The practice of exercise also helps to avoid physiological, morphological and functional changes that occur during the natural aging process, which negatively interfere with the individual’s functional capacity. The most important are the reduction in lean mass and the accumulation of adipose tissue, which increases the risk of early mortality, in addition to the loss of muscle strength, reduction in aerobic capacity and flexibility.
Decreased lean body mass reduces overall muscle uptake of glucose and free fatty acids, causing insulin resistance and leading to type 2 diabetes if not reversed. The increase in free fatty acids in the bloodstream contributes to the onset of dyslipidemia and a greater risk for the formation of arterial plaques.
From the age of 40 onwards, it is estimated that the accumulation of fat is 1kg per decade, in addition to the loss of 12% to 14% of strength, and about 5% of muscle mass, with a more evident decline after 65 years of age, particularly in the lower limbs.
Many elderly people have presented the loss of functional independence as their main problem. In the US, 2 in 5 persons over 65 years of age have reported some kind of disability. This problem needs to be corrected as soon as it is identified so as not to lead to a loss of functional independence in the future.
Another concern is that, with the reduction in lean body mass (sarcopenia), there is a decrease in bone mineral content. Using the combination of physical activities, ingestion of good sources of calcium, sunlight to stimulate the production of vitamin D, vitamin D supplements and sleep at adequate times, this symptom is alleviated. Physical activity impacts the bones causing growth stimulation, in addition to stimulating the production of growth hormone.
An active lifestyle can prevent or delay functional disability, improving neuromotor status, strength, flexibility, balance and cardiorespiratory capacity.
Exercise helps to have a long life, but with quality. Get moving today!
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Ricardo Vargas de Andrade is a Nutritionist specialized in Emotional Management. He is an international speaker, and has already produced several programs for the Novo Tempo TV Channel.