As we age exercise becomes more about maintaining current health status than fitness and form. With all of the mixed messages in the media today the challenge for actively aging adults is to know what we should do and how much.
The American College of Sports Medicine published a position statement in 2011 clarifying the needs for actively aging adults with a big focus on neuromotor exercise training: “Neuromotor exercise training is beneficial as a part of a comprehensive exercise program for older persons (50+), especially to improve balance, agility, muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.”
So what is neuromotor exercise? It’s often referred to as functional fitness which incorporates motor skills such as balance, coordination, gait and agility. As with most other human functions if we do not “use it,” we will “lose it.”
The statics for injurious falls are scary. Everyone falls regardless of age due to participation in sports, distractions, loss of balance, the list is endless. Fall injuries are among the most preventative injuries we can train for regardless of age and activity level.
The benefits of exercise and activity are undisputed: improved cardiovascular health; decreased risk of stroke, type-2 diabetes and some cancers; and weight management to name a few. As it relates to older adults (50+) in addition to those listed above we see a preservation of bone mass and prevention and improvement in depressive disorders.
We know a physically active lifestyle enhances feelings of energy, well-being, quality of life and cognitive function and is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
It’s important to incorporate a diverse mix of physical activity in your life to achieve optimal health in areas such as cardio (aerobic), resistance (strength), flexibility (stretching) and neuromotor (balance). The best way to achieve this type of exercise balance is to participate in multi-faceted exercises that incorporate varying combinations of those movements.
Group exercise classes that offer Tai Chi and yoga have proven positive outcomes as well as classes that offer a more specific focus on posture and balance and functional fitness. A group program that provides challenge in a safe environment while also providing positive social interaction will stimulate both physical and mental neurons.
At Touchmark Health & Fitness Club we provide assorted classes and training at all stages of activity. If you are new to balance exercises, don’t fret, classes are available for all levels of agility and function as well as new comers. It’s never too late to learn a new skill, Tai Chi perhaps? If falling is a fear join one of the exercise classes in the warm water pool environment such as Aqua Balance.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends neuromotor exercising two to three days per week for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes per session. The key to success of any exercise program is to continue to challenge yourself, change exercises, progress in movements and to find something that is enjoyable!
Kim Lehmann is the fitness director at Touchmark Health & Fitness Club at 2927 S.E. Village Loop in Vancouver. She can be reached at KAL@touchmark.com.