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For those in skilled nursing care, activities should be geared towards those that are right for the physical limitations and abilities of the individual. Many are unable to do a lot of physical activities but may enjoy the one-on-one time with friends playing games or watching movies together. It is also possible to enjoy activities such as crafts that can be done without getting out of bed.
Running: It seems like the most natural way to get into better shape. Bodies are designed to run, right? Yes, but only bodies that are young and relatively lean. For older and generally heavier bodies, the repeated impact of running can cause real damage when you begin late in life. You take more than 2,000 strides per mile, and with each one, you land with a force equivalent to three to four times your body’s weight.

Endurance decreases as we age. In one extensive study of more than 3,000 70-79-year-old men and women, researchers investigated the relationship between the speed at which these subjects walked ¼ of a mile and their risk of premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, and mobility limitation. The results showed that those with the slowest walk times (>6 minutes) had a higher risk of death, cardiovascular disease, and mobility limitation than those who walked the distance in less than four and a half minutes. In fact, every additional minute of walking time was associated with higher and higher degrees of risk; approximately 13% of the participants could not even complete the distance due to fatigue or symptoms such as breathlessness, cramping, etc.
Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them. (See "How muscles work" for more detail.)
Do you feel an irresistible urge to move your legs that causes you to wake up during the night? Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that creates these feelings and can cause significant sleep disturbances. Typically caused by iron deficiency, low dopamine levels, or genetic factors RLS symptoms can be managed with exercise and stretches. Learn more about how you can implement exercises for restless leg syndrome into your daily routine.
George Burns (who lived to be 100) used to say, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!" It's true that some individuals are blessed with good genes, and no matter how many unhealthy lifestyle habits they have, they're going to live into old age. But for the rest of us who might be concerned with quality of life as we age, exercise is one of the keys. Is it ever too late to start? Research proves it's not. In this article, I'll discuss the benefits of exercising into old age and then give you some tips on how to get started no matter how old you are.
I don't think anyone can argue with the idea that exercise is good for you, no matter what your age, and importantly, that it's never too late to start. I started this article with a quote and would like to finish with one as well. It's by Dr. George Sheehan. Dr. Sheehan was a cardiologist, who, in the 1970s, at the age of 45, decided to turn around his health and his life. He caught the running bug and started to train, compete, and run marathons. He quickly became an expert on the subject and started writing weekly fitness columns in local newspapers. He was medical editor for Runner's World magazine for 25 years; he counseled his patients on the virtues of exercise; and he lectured internationally. He wrote eight books about running, fitness, and health, and he played a key role in promoting the running boom of the 1970s. He was philosophical about winning, losing, suffering, meditation, training, and working through pain, and he would quote the likes of William James for inspiration. In 1986, Dr. Sheehan was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to his bones by the time he was diagnosed. He hung on courageously for seven more years, running and competing up until the end of his life. He died in 1993, just four days short of his 75th birthday. Dr. Sheehan had the following to say about his experience with running and with life. "No matter how old I get, the race remains one of life's most rewarding experiences. My times become slower and slower, but the experience of the race is unchanged: each race a drama, each race a challenge, each race stretching me in one way or another, and each race telling me more about myself and others."
Osteoporosis is responsible for 2 million fractures annually. The good news is that exercise can increase bone density in some older individuals. The precise amount and type of exercise necessary to achieve benefit is unknown, but encouragingly, research shows that weight lifting, and even just walking, can increase bone density in the hip and spine. The reason for this may be that weight lifting causes stress on the bones as the muscles contract (which causes the bones to thicken), and walking also causes stress on the bones, which stimulates them to grow.
As many of us have already noticed, muscle mass decreases as we age. Beginning in the fourth decade of life, adults lose 3%-5% of muscle mass per decade, and the decline increases to 1%-2% per year after age 50. Muscle keeps us strong, it burns calories and helps us maintain our weight, and it is also an essential contributor to our balance and bone strength. Without it, we can lose our independence and our mobility.

There's good news that should serve as an encouragement to all of us when it comes to fitness, walking endurance, and health. In a classic study of walking and mortality in 700 men enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program, the mortality rate among the men who walked less than one mile per day was nearly twice the rate of those who walked more than two miles per day. (Studies of women showed similar results). In another study, data collected on more than 41,000 men and women from 1990 to 2001 were analyzed to find the relationship between walking and mortality. It was reported that men and women who walked 30 minutes or more per day during the study period had fewer deaths than those who walked less than 30 minutes. Interestingly, even men and women who smoked or were overweight were protected from early death if they walked more than 30 minutes per day.

Another helpful stretch starts in the same standing position, but this time, clasp your hands in front. Turn your hands so the palms face the ground and bring your arms up to shoulder height. Press your palms outward, away from the body, and hold the move for about 30 seconds, release, and repeat. This exercise benefits the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
In two different studies—one of men 50-70 years of age who lifted weights three times a week for 16 weeks, and the other of women 40-70 years of age who lifted twice a week for one year, bone density in the leg and back was shown to increase. There is also some evidence that walking can increase bone density in the hips and lower back, but the recommendation for frequency and intensity of the walking is not clear. What is clear is that exercise does help build or preserve bone density, and so it is recommended that we stay active for the sake of our bones and overall health.
Research has found that bone mass can be increased in older women by physical activity. To determine whether physical activity can actually reduce the risk for broken hips, a large multicenter study was done. Nearly 10,000 women over 65 years of age were evaluated. The results of this important prospective (forward looking) study appeared in the July 15,1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
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