Maintaining balance and strength as we age

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Question: Is it true that we naturally decline with age? I’m in my 60′s and wondering how long I will be able to keep up my current routine, which involves working out almost every day. I used to be very inactive, but have discovered exercise and really love it.

A: Age-related loss of strength and function is primarily due to our everyday choices rather than how old we are. Most notably, look to poor dietary patterns and being too sedentary as factors directly affecting ability over the years.

Why do so many people fall into this trap? Living a sedentary lifestyle is usually something we have just adapted to, in other words, it is a matter of habit. This can stem from routines established over the years such as driving to and from work, sitting at a desk all day, going out to eat, and social engagements where exercise is rarely part of the plan. Add to this the age of technology, where the focus is on a cell phone, computer or other device. Unfortunately, practicing a non-active way of living is a sure-fire way to increase physical and mental issues down the road. Joints begin to hurt, we feel stiffer, we lose energy, and we suffer with a greater number of health issues.

The key to changing this scenario is finding motivation, at any age. One way to up the desire to be more active is to fully grasp the positive impact that exercise and diet has on every aspect of health. This includes the prevention of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and many others.

Thankfully, weight training is proven to improve balance and overall strength, keep our joints mobile, and in later years, reduce incidence of falls. Cardiovascular exercise leads to increased endurance and stamina, along with a healthier heart, and activities such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates and others are other great options for better balance and flexibility.

Because being active changes body chemistry for the better, you will find that keeping motivation becomes easier over time. This is because as self-defeating habits are being replaced with new healthier ones, you experience looking and feeling better, which will naturally keep you coming back for more. Research has clearly shown that individuals who are physically active experience less stress and anxiety, feel better about themselves, and generally much happier than those who are inactive. If you’ve ever wondered why in the world folks would choose to go to the gym and work out, sign up for a 5K, or make a point to hike or walk each day, this is the reason. They have created a personal goal that serves them well into their golden years and are not likely to ever regret wanting to stay fit. We can also see this play out when we look at those in their 80′s and beyond who are enjoying a higher quality of life due to leading a healthy lifestyle.

Check with your doctor for recommendations before you begin an exercise program. Frequency, duration and degree of intensity of a given exercise prescription vary from person to person.

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to

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