Horseman’s Health: Healthy Aging: Exercise

By guest contributor Barb Swanson
(author of Beyond Foods: The Handbook of Functional Nutrition)

Madalyn on horseback

Functional Health
We look at the aging process through the lens of how our body is built to function. We believe our body is a whole, and that each part works with and is dependent on the rest. Three major areas that affect healthy aging are:

  • Emotional Health
  • Exercise
  • Diet

In an earlier article, I focused on the emotional health aspect of aging. Here we focus on how exercise impacts aging.

In our digital world, only one in four adults get enough physical exercise. This means you likely need more movement in your life. Being sedentary is not only linked to an increase in Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it is also linked to an increased risk for dementia, osteoporosis and even some cancers. Exercise is also important for emotional well-being. It helps oxygenate your brain, removing free radicals before they can impact your brain health and mood. In fact, the major hallmarks of aging–lowered muscle mass, lowered bone density, helps us retain cardiovascular health, brain health, and reduces the frailty associated with aging.

In specific studies, exercise is linked to lowering depression. It helps your body create endorphins, a feel-good brain chemical. Exercise is also shown to help normalize sleep patterns. Since sleep is essential for ongoing health and healthy aging, this is an important benefit. And right now, with the world once again looking at pandemic lockdowns, finding a way to stay active is essential. The good news is that older people can improve their health quickly, even with moderate exercise. As little as 3 or 4 INTENTIONAL hours per week improves health. Intentional movement helps to banish depression, decrease the risk of falling, support the heart and may increase longevity by as much as 9 years!

Healthy Aging: Exercise Hacks
· Any additional exercise helps. Even 10 minutes walking–around the block, in your yard, up and down some stairs–helps.

· Walk, bike or jog for 30 minutes daily. This can be outdoors or in an exercise room. Or go for 45 minutes, every other day. Or as said above, grab 10 minutes any time you can!

· Breathe deeply. One of the important aspects of exercise is the oxygenation of your body. Deep breathing gives you this benefit even when you don’t have time to exercise.

· Even mild muscle strengthening is helpful for bone health. Examples include yoga and tai chi.

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