KEYS TO FITNESS: Exercise and Aging

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By SHEILA YONEMOTO, PT
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on January 6, 2011.)
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Raymond Francis, author of “Never Be Sick Again,” states exercise prevents disease by promoting efficient nutrient delivery to the cells and stimulates the lymphatic system, which is vital for removing toxins from cells.

One study shows inactive people are twice as likely to die prematurely as fit people. Also, evidence shows lack of exercise may be a greater health risk than smoking. People who exercise regularly and smoke typically live longer and healthier lives than those who do not smoke but also do not exercise.

Regular exercise has been shown to:

• Prevent cardiovascular disease.

• Dissolve blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke.

• Reduce cancer risk; just 4 hours of exercise per week lowers a woman’s risk of breast cancer by almost 60 percent.

• Helps lower blood pressure.

• Reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 25% and decreases insulin resistance.

• Enhances the immune system.

• Releases brain chemicals that improve mood and alleviate feelings of stress.

The types of exercise one should do include:

• Aerobic exercise: Improves heart, lung and the circulatory system. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, spinning, step aerobics, jump rope or any other sustained, low resistance exercise done for at least 8 minutes fits into this category.  Because aerobic exercise utilizes oxygen and burns more fat as an energy fuel, it is used for weight reduction. Since it promotes circulation, it brings more oxygen and nutrients to the entire body as well as removes waste material from cells.  When doing aerobic exercise for maximum benefit, make sure you can talk comfortably while exercising, as this indicates oxygen is being used.

• Strengthening exercise: Increases the muscle mass of the body and communication between the nervous system and muscle. Muscle uses more energy than other tissue, so building up muscle mass increases calories used in a day. When combined with aerobic exercise, this is a very efficient way to lose weight.  Also, as we age, we tend to lose about 5-10% of our muscle mass every decade of life. To maintain a stable strength level, we must increase the demands we place on the muscle to stimulate growth. Typical strengthening programs are done every other day to allow for muscle building.  Some advocates for prevention of Alzheimer’s believe doing maximum strengthening, i.e. using heavy enough weight or resistance so you can only do 5-6 repetitions before exhausting the stored energy in the muscle, will stimulate the production of neurotransmitters which improve memory.

• Stretching and flexibility exercise: Done to prevent injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as to improve the ability to produce force and increase function.  Often these are done as warm ups or cool down exercises.

• Other exercises: Designed to improve coordination, power, energy flow, stamina, lymphatic flow, breathing, eye function, sensory-motor integration and athletic performance. To improve lymphatic flow and boost immune function, try trampoline exercise.

The best success for doing exercise regularly is to find a program you enjoy.  Making exercise a regular habit, like brushing your teeth daily or taking regular showers, is one of the keys to staying young and vibrant.  Life is movement.  Blood has to keep flowing in order to maintain life.

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If you would like to try a no-impact “Chinese Energy” exercise class, we have ongoing sessions at our office twice a week. Call for more information and to reserve your space. Get more energy, lessen stress, and rid yourself of aches and pains with QiGong.  The first class is complimentary!

Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for over 30 years, specializing in Integrative Manual Therapy utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave, Suite 100, Alhambra, CA  91801.  Call (626) 576-0591 for a FREE consultation, or visit  yonemoto.com for more information. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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