Updated: Mar 28, 2020
The Harvard Health Letter (January 2017) tells us that cardio/aerobics, strengthening, balance training, and stretching are the 4 most important types of exercise we can do. As physical therapists, we agree!
Why? Because each of these types of exercises is important for addressing the declines we experience as we get older. But don’t think that you have to have a cumbersome, complicated anti-aging work-out program to keep active, mobile and feeling great. THINK YOGA, instead!
First, let’s consider strength. It gets harder to maintain our strength due to a loss of muscle fibers so strengthening exercises such as push ups, squats, and weightlifting are in order. In yoga, there’s plank, chaturanga, and utkatasana and other poses to help build strength.
We also get stiff as we age because our connective tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.) have less elastin and more collagen than they use to have. Stretching exercises can be effective in helping to decrease stiffness and improve range of motion. To be sure, there are plenty of poses that require flexibility in yoga, including upavishta konasana.
Stiffness can also affect the connective tissue of our arteries and lungs, which leads us to have less aerobic capacity as we get older. And of course, “cardio” exercises like jogging and rowing can help improve aerobic capacity. As mentioned in one of our previous posts, sun salutations can elevate the heart rate to a level of moderate aerobic intensity.
The last type of exercise touted by the Harvard Health Letter (and YogiAnatomy!) is balance training. That’s because, as we age and lose strength, we also experience changes in proprioception and that puts us at risk for falling. We don’t have to look any further than vriksasana and warrior 3 to realize that yoga will challenge and improve balance.
So, when it comes to exercises that are important for staying fit and aging well, look no further than your local yoga studio.