Healthy eating and regular physical activity are essential for helping the human body deal with the daily stress that life brings on the cardiovascular system. Our cardiovascular system depends upon healthy heart muscle tissue and elastic blood vessels that can tolerate changes in blood pressure and heart rate. There are many things in life that can cause our heart rate to increase dramatically as it is a natural response of our autonomic nervous system also known as the fight or flight response. Even the caffeine in a daily cup of coffee or tea in the morning will increase our heart rate for short periods by time. Sometimes a bad dream or anxiety caused by a bad memory will make our heart race and ignite a systemic response in our cardiovascular system. By keeping active and exercising daily, we can help strengthen the muscles of our cardiovascular system to accommodate the regular fluctuations in heart rate often experienced with the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Regular exercise help keep our bodies’ excretion, immune, and natural detoxification systems efficient and healthy. Our immune systems are exposed to numerous bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic pathogens daily. A healthy immune system will keep many of these pathogens from infecting the body. The key to staying active is to integrating exercise, brisk walks, into one’s daily plans and personal lifestyle. Proper rest should also be planned with increased activity and fitness to help your body adjust to the increased metabolism required by increased activity.
Benefits of regular exercise and keeping active:
•Improves longevity and healthy living
•Relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety and improves mood
•Improves heart-lung and muscle fitness
•Improves sleep length and sleep quality
•Helps prevent the insidious loss of bone known as osteoporosis
•Reduces the risk of falling and improves cognitive function among older adults
•Helps in preventing heart disease and stroke or its precursors, high blood pressure and undesirable blood lipid patterns
•Helps the immune system to combat certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer
•Helps prevent type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
•Prevents weight gain, promotes weight loss (when combined with a lower-calorie diet), and helps keep weight off after weight loss
Studies suggest that older people, those who are out of shape, or those with disabilities, may get as much benefit from 30 minutes of slower walking or other exercise as younger, more fit people get from the same amount of more-intense activity. In our clinic we have regular classes of Tai Chi Chuan to help older people stay active for longer periods with benefits to joints and circulation and decreased risk from higher impact bursts of exercise that can injure the joints or increase the risk of falling. Other forms of sustained exercise such as aquatic exercises and underwater movement classes can also improve cardiovascular health with less risk of gravity causing injury to joints or muscle tissue. Any form of regular movement with proper rest and recovery can help create healthy habits for improving quality of life.
Tips for staying active:
• Choose activities you enjoy doing
• Exercise with a friend for motivation and accountability
• Try taking lunch on the move at a park or a public area within walking distance
• Sign up for a class or social exercise group you would look forward to attending regularly
• Take the parking spots that are further away from your destination to add some extra steps to your trip
• Wearing a pedometer to track how many steps you take throughout the day
• Plan out set breaks or times for 10 to 15 minutes of activity throughout your day
• Reward yourself with non-food related incentives for accomplishing activity goals
Julia Kim, MD completed her residency in Family Practice at Overlook Hospital in the Atlantic Health System in Summit, New Jersey. Dr. Kim then completed her Geriatric Fellowship at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, New York and is a board certified geriatrician. She is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Practice and the American Geriatric Society. She has been practicing for six years and enjoys her specialty of caring for the older adult.
She is currently on staff at Wadley Regional Medical Center’s Senior Health Clinic.