Some despise the mere idea, some abuse it to a detrimental extreme, some ignore it and hope it will somehow go away, and others briefly experiment with it before coming to the conclusion that it's a matter better left alone.
But how is exercise rightly used? How are we to benefit from it? And, most importantly, how can the elderly, those beyond their years of robust and vigorous physique, continue exercising well into their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s?
Merriam-Webster's definition 2b of the word "exercise" is "bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness". I would thoroughly agree with this.
But what exactly about bodily exertion is so important? Why are we so encouraged to exercise?
When we exercise, the heart becomes more efficient and needs to work less to circulate blood throughout the body, therefore carrying oxygen more extensively than it would otherwise. This is what we call 'aerobic exercise'. Examples of this are running, walking, cycling, or swimming.
Exercise also stimulates the lymphatic system and can prevent inflammation, arthritis, heart disease, strokes, Parkinson's, and diabetes. This is of particular interest to the older generation.
Now, how can the elderly incorporate exercise into their day?
Something as simple as taking a daily walk can make all the difference. A brisk walk around the neighborhood can burn calories, maintain muscle tone, create ease in circulation, and lower our risks for a variety of diseases considerably.
Exercising in the swimming pool is an excellent idea as well. Swimming laps may not be for everyone, but it is one of the best forms of exercise possible. Another idea is simply walking back and forth in the pool and working against the resistance of the water. This is easier for many older people to do and is just as efficient.
Running and cycling can be more difficult, but for those whose bodies allow it, a simple mile-long jog or bicycle ride will do a world of good. Two or three miles is even better. And when coupled with some light stretching or weight training, it becomes an ideal workout.
Yoga and pilates is an excellent way to maintain our balance, muscle tone, energy, and endurance all at once. As our bodies age, we become increasingly stiff. These exercises will keep our muscles sufficiently flexible, which can be especially therapeutic to those that have suffered any sort of injury in the past.