Regular exercise does wonders to slow aging

It is an undisputed fact that exercise is good for you, no matter your age.

Regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise not only helps you feel better and makes you stronger, it also is one of the most prescribed treatments to help individuals deal with diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, depression, anxiety and stress — and that just touches the highlights. Exercise also helps improve your memory, your sleep and your overall mood.

As you age, regular exercise becomes even more important. The focus should be on continuing, adapting or starting an exercise routine that fits your current lifestyle and “does no harm.”

Christine Dewbre, executive director of Tennessee Senior Games, would typically be working overtime right now to finalize logistics before hundreds of athletes — ranging in age from 50 to 100 — descended upon Williamson County to compete in Olympic-style and recreational sports. Like most large summer events, however, the 2020 games — set to take place the last week of June — have been postponed.

While disappointed, Dewbre says she knows firsthand how exercise can transform someone’s life at any age.

“Through our program, adults become healthier and stronger, take less medication and feel younger than their counterparts. Our testimonials regarding better health (both mental and physical) are countless,” Dewbre says.

“More importantly, studies conducted on actual senior athletes show better cardiovascular health, a fitness age 25 years younger than their counterparts and decreased incidents of diabetes and falling.

“It is never too late to start that journey to a new lifestyle,” she says, putting a big emphasis on “never.”

Tim Parrott developed a passion for helping older adults attain and retain their independence after earning a degree in exercise science. Today the National Institute for Fitness and Sports fitness manager works full time with residents at The Heritage at Brentwood.

Parrott is happy The Heritage’s Healthy Life Center — which pre-COVID-19 offered multiple group exercise, yoga and dance classes, water aerobics and lap swimming in its large, heated indoor pool and 24/7 access to a well-equipped workout center — is in the process of reopening, even if on a very limited basis.

“When we are able to open the doors, we’ll be excited to welcome them back,” he says.

Using innovative and virtual training options, Parrott says the health and fitness programs offered over the past few months “are still effectively challenging our residents in all the right ways.” In fact, “we’ve received such positive feedback about our adapted programming that we plan to continue many of these offerings beyond the pandemic.”

If you’re ready to break out of your house but still want to stay socially distanced, just hit a trail. Walking is one of the best, easiest and most economical ways to exercise. Williamson County and the cities of Brentwood, Franklin, Nolensville and Spring Hill all have miles of free multi-use and hiking trails to choose from whenever you want to venture outside of your neighborhood.

Many recreation centers, YMCA branches and fitness centers are reopening this week, too, though with limited capacities and stringent safety restrictions. If you are 65 or older and have a Medicare Advantage plan, it very likely includes a free membership to one of several national health and fitness programs designed specifically for senior adults you can take advantage of nearby.

The Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department partners with SilverSneakers (multiple providers), Silver & Fit (Cigna-Healthcare) and Renew Active (United Healthcare) in addition to offering its own extensive senior programing (and discounts!) to residents age 55 and up.

The YMCA of Middle Tennessee now partners with Renew Active, United Healthcare’s Medicare Advantage plan. Several private fitness centers also partner with one or more of the senior-focused plans.

According to its website, 88% of SilverSneakers participants say the program has improved their quality of life — physically, emotionally and socially. And not just in ways you may imagine.

“Stronger muscles and better endurance make it easier to carry groceries, work in the garden and even play with your grandchildren,” says Julie Logue, SilverSneakers training manager.

Sounds good to me. Now I just need one of those grandchildren that so many of my friends already have. See you on the trail or in the gym soon!

Susan Leathers is a Brentwood-based journalist with a keen interest in aging issues. Send suggestions for future columns to sleathers@theheritagelcs.com. This monthly column is sponsored by The Heritage at Brentwood. For more information, call 615-507-2686 or visit www.theheritagelcs.com.

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