One of the most effective pieces of exercise equipment for older adults is something that can easily be found in many homes. However, some older adults don't enjoy using this equipment - to the point that they're actually willing to move to a new home to avoid it! But research from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) has recently revealed that using this equipment is a great way to build strength and improve cardiorespiratory fitness.
So what is this miraculous piece of equipment? It's not an old treadmill or exercise bike collecting dust in the basement. It's a staircase! While people often see stairs as a hazard for older adults, the NAMS research published in the journal Menopause indicates that climbing stairs can actually be of great benefit to the elderly population. In fact, they're particularly good for postmenopausal women who have estrogen deficiencies but for whatever reason are unable to take hormonal replacement.
For the study, the researchers had postmenopausal Korean women, who also suffered from stage 2 hypertension, climb 192 stairs two to five times a day, four days a week. The women experienced several benefits, including reductions in arterial stiffness, decreases in blood pressure, and gains in leg strength.
I know 192 stairs sounds like a lot. But count the number of steps on your staircase and then track how many times a day you go upstairs for a few days. I bet you'll be surprised by how many stairs you're already climbing! Generally, a staircase has 12-13 stairs in a flight. So that's about 14-16 trips upstairs to see this benefit.
A simple way to keep your muscles strong as you get older (and it isn't exercise)
This one step can strengthen aging muscles, boost your immune system, and even help you manage your weight.
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Then, if you can, try adding another climb every few days to get you up and over this target number. If you're already meeting or exceeding it, you can thank your home for giving you great opportunities to exercise throughout the day.
Some people think they should avoid the stairs if they start feeling muscle weakness as they age. This study tells us that the opposite is true. But if you do feel like you're losing some muscle tone (or you want to build up your muscles preemptively), you can try Perfect Amino tablets or powder to help support your exercise efforts. This product contains eight essential amino acids that your body must have to build muscle and bone properly. These amino acids will also support your skin, hair, nails, and other connective tissues, which can begin to deteriorate with aging. That means they're a great choice for older adults, whether or not stair-climbing is part of their daily routine.
Many older adults move out of homes with stairs because they're afraid of falling. But keeping your leg muscles strong with a combination of exercise and the right supplements can make this risk negligible. So if you're considering a move to downsize or be closer to family, go right ahead. But I don't think you should do it just to get away from the stairs.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD