But I am too old to exercise!

Seniors walking
During the last century, dramatic improvements in life expectancy have been achieved in many countries worldwide. In the United States, for example, life expectancy (or the number of years a newborn baby can expect to live) has increased from 47 to nearly 76 years during the 1900s, and is expected to exceed 82 years by the year 2050.

In simple terms, the baby boomers are getting old, a phenomenon many experts call the “age wave.” In 1900, for example, only 40 percent of Americans lived beyond age 65, while in 1990 this proportion had risen to 80 percent.

The central issue raised by increasing longevity is that of quality of life. The National Center for Health Statistics has estimated that 15 percent of the average American’s life is spent in an “unhealthy” state (that is, impaired by disease, disabilities, and/or injuries). Among those reaching age 65, five of their remaining 17 to 18 years, on average, will be unhealthy ones.

Health habits have a strong influence on both life expectancy and quality of life during old age. Dr. Lester Breslow, in his famous study of over 6000 people in the San Francisco Bay area, showed a dramatic difference in death rate between those people who followed seven simple health habits and those who did not.

Those who followed all seven health habits were estimated to live nine years longer and suffer less disability than those who did not practice any of them. In other words, healthful living appears not only to promote longevity but also to increase the chance of having the physical ability to enjoy life to its fullest in later years.

A key ingredient to healthy aging, according to many gerontologists, is regular physical activity. Of all age groups, the elderly have the most to gain by being active, including the potential for decreased
risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, depression, bone fractures, and diabetes, as well as improved body composition, fitness, longevity, ability to perform personal care activities, and
management of arthritis. Yet national surveys indicate that only about one-third of the elderly exercise regularly, which is less than any other age group.
  Breslow’s 7 Habits:

  1. Never smoke
  2. Moderate or no alcohol consumption
  3. Daily breakfast
  4. No snacking
  5. Seven to eight hours
    of sleep per night
  6. Regular exercise
  7. Ideal weight

Interestingly, many of the changes that accompany aging are similar to those experienced during prolonged bed rest, inactivity, and weightlessness. These changes include a decrease in heart and lung function and muscle and bone strength and with a gain in body fat. Many researchers that have evaluated the effects of aging on the body have focused on VO2max (or the ability of the body to take in oxygen, transport it, and use it for burning fuel to supply energy for activity).

VO2max is seen by many as the single best variable to define the overall changes in the body that occur with aging. VO2max normally declines eight to 10 percent per decade for both males and females after 25 years of age. At any given age, people can have a much higher VO2max if they exercise regularly and vigorously. It has been demonstrated that athletic males and females who are 65 to 75 years of age can have the VO2max of young sedentary adults and are capable of performing at levels once thought unattainable.


21 thoughts on “But I am too old to exercise!”

  1. I’m posting Breslow’s 7 Habits next to my computer to view daily.

  2. Breslow’s 7 Habits are great, but the no snacking should be modified to healthy snacking.

    1. I agree with you Connie. There is a range of opinion on whether it is better to eat more, smaller meals or fewer, larger meals (and some folks who say it doesn’t matter – including me). So I think that it is a bit presumptuous to take the evidence about “snacking” – which has no obvious control over the quality of the food eaten – and use it as justification for not “snacking” if you are eating healthy foods.

  3. I agree with article except with diabetes you are suppost to have daily snacks to keep your blood sugars at a more level number.

  4. The “No snacking” item should be modified to say “Healthy snacking”. I’m sure they are referring to “junk foods”, but it has been proven that healthy snacking is good for you and assists in weight loss/maintaining a healthy weight.

  5. I eat small meals which to some people look like snacking-but they consist of fruit, yogurt, homemake soup, veggies. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I don’t like big meals. Grew up with smokers so will always have the second-hand smoke to contend with. Some things are just beyond your control!

  6. I agree with the right snacks to keep your blood sugar level..

  7. I try to do a soft run up a hill 5 days a week in the morning and walk whenever I don’t feel up to running.

    Healthy snacking is what helps baby boomers to stay energized (movers and shakers)!!!

  8. I am 56 yrs old and exercise EVERY DAY! When I leave my job I head for the gym. It helps me relax and lead a less stress free life!

  9. I enjoy doing Yoga, it helps to relax yet gives me energy which helps me to sleep better.

  10. I am 56 and just started exercising. use to do it but been several years since ive done a lot. mostly walking or riding stationary bike any suggestions

    1. Hi Alice, if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised with any kind of regularity, it is best to approach a new exercise program slowly and mindfully. Listen to your body and honor what it says. If you have any health conditions or concerns about starting a new exercise program, visit your doctor for the green light to proceed. Walking and bike riding are both great starts as they are both easy on the joints and simple to do. Once you get into the habit of exercising regularly, you can add more complicated or strenuous activities to your routine. Don’t overthink it though: as long as you are not sick or injured, simple movement beats sitting on the couch every time!

  11. I can easily do without alcohol. I enjoy moving every day. Weight is the toughest challenge.

  12. Sleep is sometimes hard. I just found an interesting Japanese remedy: wearing a warm patch during the day and taking it off at night.

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