Seniors also benefit from regular exercise

Akron Beacon JournalJuly 29, 2013 

— – You’re never too old to start a new fitness routine.

The thousands of athletes who traveled to Northeast Ohio competing in the National Senior Games provide great examples for sedentary seniors to get active, Dr. Richard Kratche, medical director for the Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center, said in a recent interview.

The 14th biennial games – attracting about 11,000 participants ages 50 and older – began last week and continue through Aug. 1 in 19 sports at more than 20 venues throughout the region.

The Cleveland Clinic is a sponsor and medical provider for the National Senior Games.

These elite older athletes are in a select group when it comes to staying active while aging. But all Americans can benefit by embracing exercise regardless of their age, even if it’s just walking 15 minutes a day to start, Kratche said.

“The truth is, it’s never too late to start exercising,” he said. “Everybody can start where they’re at and gradually work up. The benefits are huge.”

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, resulting in “all kinds of diseases and maladies,” he said.

Sedentary seniors who have significant health conditions and illnesses should talk with a doctor before getting started, Kratche said.

“That said, you don’t really need a doctor’s note to walk around a store,” he said. “People can start walking. Literally, if they can only walk five minutes, the goal is to walk five minutes, but do it every day, and then after a week or two up it to 10 minutes.”

The goal is to build up activity levels and achieve a weekly minimum of 150 minutes of walking at a brisk pace, he said.

Though some types of arthritis are crippling, the most common form (osteoarthritis) actually benefits from moderate activity to improve range of motion, he said.

Running tends to be harder on joints than walking, he said. Swimming is another activity many older patients also can enjoy.

Kratche also recommends people consider exercising with others.

“The advantage to walking or exercising with others is the time flies,” Kratche said. “We have these wonderful conversations as you walk.”

Athletes of all ages should pay attention to the weather, he said. “When it gets really hot and humid, hydration becomes even more important.”

Stretching also is recommended for all ages before exercising but “probably as we get older, loosening up and taking time to warm up prior to activities is a good idea,” he said.

“Exercise is so important,” he said. “Everybody and anybody can do it. We don’t exercise at our peril.

“Exercise is a wonderful stress reducer, and all of us have stress in our life. Being able to burn some of that off on a walking path or a pool is a great benefit. It’s just good medicine.”

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