You guessed it. It decreases. The good news is that some studies, but not all, show improvements in flexibility when individuals engage in exercise programs that involve stretching exercises. Unfortunately, the studies on flexibility in the aging population aren't as complete as they are for studies of strength and endurance, but the studies do suggest that significant improvements in the range of motion of various joints (neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle) can occur when stretching exercises are prescribed. It's just that it isn't clear how much flexibility training older adults should do to maintain good range of motion and joint function.
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.
Adding resistance with light weights or elastic bands helps develop muscle mass and upper body strength. Sit (or stand) with feet flat on the floor and hold weights at shoulder height with palms facing forward, then lift the weights above your head. Other beneficial exercises for upper body strength include side arm raises — hold weights at your sides, palms inward, and raise your arms out to the sides — and front arm raises — hold weights at your sides, palms down, and raise arms to shoulder height. Aim for two sets of at least 10 reps for each of these three exercises.
Usually associated with the county, senior centers offer a wide variety of services and support, along with social events. Visit your senior center or look for their website online to get more information on what they have to offer. Most sites will provide a list of programs and upcoming events that are open to the public. Getting involved in some social activities will open the doors to meeting others in your community!
Lifting everyday objects like a suitcase or a gallon-size jug of water can become more difficult as you age. Arm curls will strengthen the muscles involved with these movements. Either seated or standing, hold hand weights down at your sides with palms facing up and elbows tucked in, then bend your elbows and lift the weights toward your chest. Hold each repetition for about 1 second, then slowly lower the arms; do a set of 10 reps, rest, and repeat another set.
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.
The biggest problem: You begin with your body bent forward at the hips, and then straighten your hips as you pull the weight from the floor. It takes a lot of strength in your hip and torso muscles to keep your lower back in a safe position. If it shifts out of its natural arch at the beginning, and then moves back into it at the end, the risk of a disc injury is astronomical.
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.