Something as simple as daily walks can lead to a healthier and potentially longer life and is important at any age. (File photo)

Something as simple as daily walks can lead to a healthier and potentially longer life and is important at any age. (File photo)

Column: Exercise key to healthier and potentially longer life

Great Outdoors by James Murray

Snowshoeing, biking, kayaking – what’s with people nowadays?

If they’re not out jogging in packs or cross-country skiing, they’re whipping along on their 27-speed hybrid comfort bikes or worse yet, Nordic walking with their darned ski poles. Or they’re at a community centre playing pickle ball or in the pool taking part in some sort of aqua-fit class.

I mean, you can’t go anywhere nowadays without having to dodge some senior trying to keep healthy and fit.

I don’t get it. What ever happened to growing old gracefully, with some dignity, doing things like reminiscing about the good old days or knitting slipper-socks? It seems like every time you turn around there is some new keep-fit activity for seniors being advertised in the local newspaper, or being promoted by groups like the Canadian Heart and Stroke Association or Cancer Society. Yoga for seniors, dance classes for people 50 and older, tai-chi for people that are retired but still want to keep active. Where is it going to end?

Related: In depth: Simple falls causing serious injuries to people over 65

The other day I read an article about some guy in his 90s who plays hockey several times a week. Mind you, I don’t know how fast-paced the games are because most of his teammates are in their 70s and 80s. My point is, more and more so-called older people are taking part in more and more activities and programs designed to keep them active, healthy and happy. It’s hard to keep up – no pun intended.

On the other hand, regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do for their health.

It can help prevent many of the health problems that come with old age. Medical research has shown that, no matter what your age, you can gain significant improvement in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density and mental clarity through a routine of regular exercise. Studies have also shown that exercise can help reduce the risk of numerous deceases and health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia and depression.

The goal of an exercise routine, especially in one’s later years, should be the same as for all those young people you see out trying to get ahead of the old fogies – strength, cardiovascular health, flexibility and balance. Regular activity and exercise, combined with proper nutrition, cannot stop the clock, but it can slow down the “natural aging” process. The trick, though, to any exercise program is to be not only realistic but also smart about it. A preventable injury can put an older person out of commission for a lot longer than when they were younger. Proper form and technique are key to avoiding injury.

Related: Exercise bikes give a boost for brains

Any form of exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking, kayaking or anything else that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time – even mowing the lawn and raking leaves – is good for your health. Walking along a river or stream bank may not seem like a lot of exercise, but take my word for it, moving from fishing hole to fishing hole and then making your way back to the vehicle when you’re finished for the day adds quite a few miles to your day on the water.

Casting a fly line is not only a good cardiovascular workout, it also uses a lot of muscles. Even sitting out in a 12-foot aluminum fishing boat for the better part of a day provides plenty of sunshine and fresh air. I know that hooking and playing a three- or four-pound rainbow trout, not to mention a 250-pound sturgeon can certainly get your heartbeat up.

Exercise can sometimes be a test of both strength and will; however, it should not be seen as a chore. The whole point of exercising should be about enjoying life rather than simply maintaining it.

After researching material for this column, it would seem that regular exercise can, indeed, lead to living a longer, healthier and happier life.

So I guess if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them. Anyone want to go Nordic walking?


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