Lifelong exercise can help maintain speed and fitness as we age

May 9, 2013 

It’s inevitable: As you get older, you slow down. A 40-year-old person moves more slowly than a 20-year-old. A 70-year-old can’t be expected to keep up with a 50-year-old on a bike or a hike. It’s only natural, right?

Well, according to an article recently published in the Washington Post written by Lenny Bernstein, it’s not natural. Don’t believe it? Keep reading.

According to Bernstein “While you can’t defy aging impact on your speed and fitness forever, research shows that you can push back, hard. You can markedly slow your decline and postpone tumbling off the fitness cliff that some people encounter in old age. And the gains may transfer from athletics to the tasks of daily life.”

You probably will not be surprised to learn that regular lifelong exercise is the key to maintain speed and fitness. We all benefit from regular exercise several times a week. But beginning early in life and sticking with a program provides greater and longer-term benefits. People who train their whole life can prevent loss of fitness and energy. This is one of many reasons all of us, but especially children should have daily physical exercise.

According to the published article, “Dee Nelson of Gaithersburg, 69, started racing at age 34 and ran her first Cherry Blossom 10-miler in 76:55 in 1985. Ten years later, she ran the same race in 73:32, according to meticulous records she has kept of the 1,490 road races she has run. She has begun to slow in recent years but has stayed ahead of most of her peers. She finished the 2013 Cherry Blossom April 7 in 87:11, good enough for third place in her age group.” Pretty impressive!

“I pretty much run to exhaustion, but I don’t feel any pain,” Nelson said. “My health is the most important thing I have, and I think that’s why I’ve been running all these years.”

The best defense against declining speed and energy is working out four or five times a week. One workout should be a speed workout. If you are not a runner, try walking fast. Another workout should be a longer distance, but slower run or walk. This appears to provide the best defense against declining speed and cardiac strength. Most experts recommend we also do two weekly strength training sessions to maintain muscle and bone fitness.

Regardless of our age and fitness level, if we just do more today than we did yesterday, we are moving toward a healthier tomorrow.

Judy Schmoeger, a longtime resident of Lee’s Summit, is owner and general manager of Anytime Fitness.

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