As I age, I often think about the importance of exercise and physical activity for the physical and mental health of older women, many of whom are reluctant to stay active. I get up every morning, fighting the urge to stay in bed that used to cause me to avoid exercise.
I am worried about losing my muscle mass (at the rate of about half a pound per year after the age of 50). To prevent bone weakening and muscle loss, I started training with customized weight workouts two to three times a week as soon as I turned 39.
I firmly believe that regular exercise is reducing my risks of mental problems, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Even when I am tired, light physical activity helps improve my stamina and muscle strength. Stretching and yoga also uplift my mood and improve my overall well-being. As my wellness coach likes to say: “when exercising, variety and consistency are vital for results.”
Yet, I have the hardest time encouraging my mother to engage in regular physical activity. I have noticed that women over 60 start making all kinds of excuses in order to avoid it. According to the Surgeon General, by age 75, one in two women engage in no physical activity at all. What’s worse, nearly one in four adults over the age of 65 has trouble walking or climbing stairs. And over 3.4 million older adults have trouble taking care of their personal needs.
As my mother ages, I am afraid that her well being may be impacted by some of these difficulties. And so I give her examples of scientific studies trying to prove that staying physically active and exercising regularly will help her prevent and delay many diseases and disabilities. Because she leads a primarily sedentary life style, I encourage her to engage in short intervals of moderate physical activity and gradually build up to the desired amount. I show her exercises for aging women that help increase mobility and preserve muscle strength and tone.
She does engage in some forms of actions that involve moving one’s body, such as gardening, walking, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But she continues to resist my encouragement of weight training, yoga, aerobics, or hiking, even though these are all activities in which older women can engage in order to maintain their ability to live independently.
The only thing that works with my mom is telling her that I want her to live long and prosper.
What about you? Are you worried about getting older?
And how do you encourage your parents to exercise?