YOUR BEST LIFE
Tips for Living Healthy in South Arkansas
Manager, JRMC Wellness Centers
The human body ages in two ways: chronologically and biologically. Chronological aging occurs with the passing of time, and is a process we cannot control – it’s living life. Biological aging is the result of damage at the cellular level, and research has shown that regular exercise can play a significant role in slowing down that process. Exercise is so critical that the World Health Organization lists physical inactivity as the fourth leading preventable risk factor for global mortality rates. In individuals leading a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle, biological aging leads to: – loss of muscle mass, making all daily activities more difficult – increased collagen content of muscle tissue leading to decreased range of motion – loss of bone mineral density, increasing fracture risk from accidental falls – decreased aerobic efficiency, causing greater and earlier onset of fatigue during activity – memory loss and impaired cognitive function
Recent research indicates that inactivity may actually affect our DNA. Stated simply, our DNA contains the “recipe” that makes each of us who we are! Every strand of our DNA is capped by a structure called a telomere. When cells divide and replicate (which is occurring all the time) a small portion of the telomere is snipped off, protecting the remaining DNA strand. In sedentary individuals, this snipping causes the telomere to become much shorter over time. Eventually, the DNA strand will become short enough that it will lose part of its genetic code (the recipe), or die altogether. Researchers say exercise significantly reduces the severity of this shortening.
Although there are many different exercise options for healthy aging, the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine agree on 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise on most days, and whole body strength training 2 or 3 non-consecutive days of the week. Aerobic exercise is considered to be anything that elevates the heart rate and keeps it up for the prescribed period of time, such walking on a treadmill at the Wellness Center or taking a low impact Les Mills class, such as BodyFlow. However, it can also be something as simple as walking the dog, mowing the yard, or dancing. And you can get the same benefits by exercising for brief periods of time, several times throughout the day. Just make sure the accumulated activity adds up to 30 minutes and is undertaken at an intensity at least equivalent to that of a brisk walk. Proper exercise can also slow the effects of biological aging by stimulating the production of new muscle cells and improving the function of existing ones. Just ask Gaylon Presley of White Hall. Presley lifts weights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the White Hall Wellness Center. “I have arthritis in my shoulders, and when I first started working out, I couldn’t lift my arm high enough to put a tackle box in the back of my truck. Now, I still have the arthritis, but my mobility has improved tenfold.”
Another benefit of regular exercise that Presley can attest to is the social component. After his workout, he and several friends drink coffee and chat at the Wellness Center. We’re all social creatures by nature, and exercising among friends and acquaintances can increase compliance and keep us engaged, both psychologically and physically. Our bodies are amazing machines! And just like any machine, proper care and maintenance must be given for it to work at optimum levels. We make decisions every day that affect both the quantity and quality of our lives. Proper exercise can positively affect both!
The JRMC Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. For more information call the Pine Bluff (541-7890) or White Hall (850-8000) facility.