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Exercise after 50

Keys to healthy aging

Older couple playing bocci ball

For two weeks this August, Stanford will host the athletes of the 2009 Summer National Senior Games-10,000 men and women age 50 and older who will run, swim, cycle and more. Stanford Hospital & Clinics is a major sponsor of the event, which will reinforce the benefits of exercise for aging adults.

"Aside from the obvious cardiovascular benefits we all know about, proper exercise helps maintain bone and muscle strength and improve circulation, endocrine balance and joint flexibility well into the eighth decade of life," said Gary Fanton, MD, chief of the Division of Sports Medicine in the Hospital's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine.

Gordon Matheson, MD, PhD, director of sports medicine at Stanford, said exercise also offsets risk factors associated with disease and mortality, such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and hyperglycemia.

But it's not all about the body. Rita Ghatak, PhD, director of Aging Adult Services at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, links physical activity to both physical and cognitive health. A modest amount of exercise might reduce the risk of dementia, she said. "Exercise can also enhance capacity, reduce fall risk and improve quality of life," she added.

Beneficial activities

"There is no single cookbook for healthy aging and living," said Fanton. "Exercise that is beneficial to most people includes both strength and aerobic training."

Without a basic muscle strengthening program, simple tasks such as carrying groceries or gardening can become a challenge as people age. "A moderate lifting program of free weights can significantly improve muscle and joint function, tone and appearance, and assist in weight control," said Fanton.

Some exercises serve dual purposes: For example, lifting weights in a pool can assist in the early stages of a strength program and help improve flexibility.

Ghatak recommends that anyone considering an exercise program take into account his or her general health, capacity, fall risk and presence of disease. "Physicians and physical therapists can help determine which exercises are most beneficial to each individual," she said.

Most of all, said Fanton, "keep it fun, keep it interesting, and keep it sensible."

Senior Games Special Events

Torch run and welcome ceremony

August 1: Torch Run and Welcome Ceremony
Leaves Palo Alto City Hall at 7:15 pm; arrives Cobb Track at Stanford at 9 pm

August 8: Celebration of Athletes (limited seating)
Maples Pavilion, Stanford, 7-9:30 pm                

August 1-15:  

All day, Stanford University and Bay Area venues

Peak Performance Lecture Series
1-2 pm daily, Avery Rehearsal Hall, Stanford University

Evening Entertainment
5-7 pm, Athletes Village, Stanford University

Most activities are free and open to the public.For more information, visit

Stanford Hospital & Clinics is a gold-medal sponsor of the 2009 Summer National Senior Games at Stanford University Aug. 1-15. Some 10,000 athletes age 50 and older will compete in 25 sports. Stanford experts will offer free public lectures and activities on topics ranging from healthy aging to peak performance. Participants can stop by the hospital's booth in the Athletes Village from 9 am to 6 pm daily. For more information, including schedules, directions and parking, visit, e-mail or call 650-723-7180.

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

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