KEYS TO FITNESS: Exercise and Aging



A study has shown inactive people are twice as likely to die prematurely. There is also evidence that 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.

• Help lower blood pressure.

• Reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 25% and decrease insulin resistance.

• Enhance the immune system.

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

The types of exercise that one should do include:

• Aerobic exercise, which improves heart, lung and the circulatory system. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, spinning, step aerobics, jump rope and any other sustained, low-resistance exercise done for at least eight minutes fits into this category. Aerobic exercise utilizes oxygen and burns more fat, so it can be used for weight reduction. It brings more oxygen and nutrients to the entire body as well as removing waste material from the cells.

• Strengthening exercise increases the muscle mass of the body and also the communication between the nervous system and muscle. Muscle utilizes more energy than other tissue, so building up muscle mass will increase calories used, even during sleep. When combined with aerobic exercise, this is a very efficient way of losing weight.

Also, as we get older, we tend to lose about 5-10% of our muscle mass every decade of life, so in order to maintain a stable strength level, we need to increase the demands we place on the muscle to stimulate muscle growth.

Typical strengthening programs are done every other day to allow for muscle building. Some advocates for prevention of Alzheimer’s believe that doing maximum strengthening will stimulate the production of neurotransmitters, which help with memory.

Stretching and flexibility exercises prevent injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as improving the ability to produce force and increase function of the muscles. Often these are done as warm-ups or cool-down exercises.

Other exercises are designed to improve coordination, power, energy flow, stamina, lymphatic flow, breathing, eye function, sensory-motor integration and athletic performance.

At any rate, the best success for doing exercise regularly is to find a program that you enjoy doing. Making exercise a regular habit, like brushing your teeth daily or taking a shower, is one of the keys to staying young and vibrant.

Life is movement – blood has to keep flowing in order to maintain life.


Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 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. Sheila also offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit



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