Use it or lose it. Older adults can build muscle mass just as quickly as younger adults.
While it is true that there are many age-related illnesses, such as Osteoporosis, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease which can have a negative impact on physical capabilities, it is also true that an inactive lifestyle leads to deterioration of strength, balance and flexibility.
In some countries without the modern conveniences we have here in the U.S., seniors maintain their abilities to function unassisted much longer. In many parts of China and Africa, for instance, there are no toilets. There is just a hole in the ground. The one advantage this provides is that people must truly squat from their knees and then standup each time they visit the toilet. This is sort of a forced way to continue to maintain strength and flexibility in the legs. Their aging populations maintain an active lifestyle much longer than we do in the U.S.
The National Institute of Health provides exercise guidelines for older adults and also provides information on scientific studies which show that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of older adults who are frail or have diseases that accompany aging.
The four areas exercise can help are: strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. Check out NIH's website for more information and videos.
I know it isn't always easy to convince Mom and Dad to exercise. My girlfriend purchased a health club membership for her parents and they told her they were going. Everytime she called she would ask them how their workouts went and they would tell her all was going well. Then after about 6 months her brother finally confided in her that he wasn't sure they were really going. She called the health club and found out they had only been twice. As she says, at least she tried. If you can convince someone to stay with an exercise program for just a couple weeks, they will start to experience the positive benefits which will encourage them to stay with their program.
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