Twyla Tharp is seventy-eight years old. In her book, Keep it Moving, she says “the older we get, the more we should commit to physical activity.” Staying active, she explains is how we can slow down “the diminishment of our strength and agility, our bone density, our muscle mass, our elasticity, [and] our recovery time.” Tharp undoubtedly knows what she’s talking about. She is considered a leading creative artist of our time as a former dancer and a dance choreographer for some of the best-known ballet companies in the world. She continues a rigorous exercise routine and a fast-paced event schedule.
Tharp isn’t the only one suggesting that we need to keep moving. Dan Buettner, the author of The Blue Zones, discovered that in the five regions in the world where people lived the longest and healthiest lives, they kept moving. Movement matters as we age!
According to the Knowridge Science Report, movement, like brisk walking or other moderate activity, can decrease the likelihood of serious problems like heart disease and cancer. At the same time, a healthy amount of exercise can increase our sense of well-being and longevity.
The World Health Organization suggests that exercise, along with a healthy diet, could reduce the risk of dementia as we age. For individuals with mild cognitive impairment, studies have shown that exercise can improve cognitive function.
Writing for Medical Express, Dr. Tom Bailey explained that as we age, the flow of blood to our brain and our arterial function decreases. “These factors have been linked to a risk of cognitive decline and cardiovascular events, such as a stroke.” Increasing brain blood flow in older adults could improve our overall health outcomes. Baily said that interval-based exercise (alternating high intensity with lower intensity exercise) was an effective way to increase brain blood flow in older adults.
Amount and Type of Movement
The World Health Organization suggests we get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. A 2019 Knowridge Science Report states “This works out to about 20 to 30 minutes per day of activity like brisk walking, swimming, or playing tennis.”
Citing Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a 2019 UPI Health News article reported that brisk walking may help people live longer regardless of their overall weight. Discussing other research that supports the value of brisk walks, the article concludes with a quote from Tom Yates, the lead researcher in the walking study, who stated, “perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.”
Various studies, as well as fitness experts, have stressed the importance of working on muscle toning, strength, and flexibility. Knowridge Science Report reported that loss of muscle mass—especially in the arms and legs—was associated with shorter longevity. The explanation for a decrease in lifespan was related to an increased likelihood of falling and breaking bones. In addition, it was reported that too much sitting may “accelerate muscle loss.”
In addition to walking and working on muscle toning and strengthening, I have started to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. According to a Silver Sneakers article, HIIT involves short but intense periods of activity with brief, alternating recovery periods. After just a few weeks, I have noticed more strength and endurance as well as overall improved physical conditioning.
My former 98-year-old neighbor told me that staying active was one of the reasons she had lived so long. She said she exercised every morning. The last time I saw her before she passed away, she demonstrated how she did leg raises and squats while holding onto her walker for balance.
Twyla Tharp suggested we could even keep moving when seated. We could stretch our legs, move our necks, and squirm in our chairs.
My Challenge to You: Make it one of your goals in 2020 to keep moving. It can add quality years to our lives and help keep our minds sharper as well.