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Is Exercise "Natural?"

We've all heard from our earliest school days how important regular exercise is to maintaining optimal health and as we age, how it's even more important than ever to either begin or continue an exercise regimen to keep up strength, independence and mobility. Unfortunately, as we get into our twenties we slowly begin losing muscle mass, lung capacity and stamina unless we adopt exercise regimens that help us maintain good fitness levels.

One of the most important results of the changes that affect all of us over time is the risk of falling and sustaining significant injury in our later years. So the message becomes pretty clear: If we don't exercise on a regular basis (at least three times per week for 30-40 minutes), the consequences to the quality of life in our later years can be significant.

But knowing all this, is it really a "natural" thing to force ourselves to go to a gym, climb onto a treadmill, lift weights or walk a trail? We all know how at times it's just easier to stay in a warm bed when the alarm clock goes off, or go out for a drink with friends after working late in the office instead of changing into the gym clothes we brought for an after-hours workout. Is it a normal impulse for humans to want to exercise, given all we know about the many benefits of regular workouts and how important a lifelong habit can be to our quality of life?

Actually, it might not be normal after all. It turns out we may just be giving in to our basic evolutionary instinct to be unmotivated when it comes to working out. Nor does it appear to be a natural inclination to exercise for health alone. Evolutionary biologists theorize that it's instinctual to avoid unnecessary exertion. So while a small percentage of people today exercise as a form of medicine, doing their prescribed dose, the vast majority of us behave just as our ancestors did by exercising only when it's fun (as a form of play, for instance) or in the case of our ancestors, when it was necessary to eat or survive.

What now seems to be generally accepted by researchers and biologists is that by pairing our natural reluctance to workout with social settings, like spin classes in the gym, yoga, pilates, marathons or with dancing classes, we tend to be much more active than we might be otherwise. Doing things with others, just as when our ancestors went out gathering or hunting in groups, encourages us to start or continue exercise of all sorts and the elderly are no different. Joining in group chair exercises for those too frail to stand and exercise, or walking with an exercise buddy often results in a continuing exercise regimen. It appears to be the key to long-term success in maintaining better fitness.

At AAging Better, one of our primary goals with our clients is to keep them as active as possible. Our caregivers work with all clients to maintain strength, even if it's just walking around the inside of the house. And we always welcome our clients to help with any of the activities of daily living that they desire. This company philosophy is an integral part of the approach we use to keep our client's quality of life as good as we possibly can.

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