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Seniors Encouraged to Exercise – Benefits Both Brain and Body

With Saturday, May 1, marking the start of “Older Americans Month,” Health Net, Inc. (NYSE: HNT) is working to increase awareness about the physical and cognitive benefits seniors will experience by exercising on a regular basis.

“There was a time when the prevailing wisdom was thatafter a certain ageexercise wasn’t beneficial,” says Jonathan Scheff, M.D., chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc. “We now know that exactly the opposite is true. In fact,” he adds, “regular exercise has been associated with the prevention or delay of many diseases and disabilities in seniors as well as with improving cognitive functioning.”

For more information

Health Net, Inc. Online Newsroom

Health Net Member Web Site

Health Net Insurance for Individuals

Health Net Medicare Plans

Supported by science

According to Scheff, “Numerous scientific studies have found that exercise slows or reverses the physical and mental deterioration associated with aging.” These findings include:

  • As little as three hours of brisk walking per week may reduce heart attack risk by 64 percent.
  • Aerobic exercise improves higher cognitive functions such as planning, organization and memory.
  • Regular exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowers cholesterol, increases bone density and lowers the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Seniors who increase their levels of regular exercise perform better on standardized tests measuring balance, walking speed and the ability to get up from a chair.
  • Exercise reduces symptoms of distress, anxiety and depression, while improving self-esteem and self-confidence.

Scheff points out, “Even if an elderly individual has never followed a regular exercise regimen, it’s never too late to start. Exercising is generally safe for most seniors, even those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. I think that the greatest risk associated with exercise is not doing it, but you should always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.”

Certified Personal Trainer Christopher Ross Lane agrees. “Besides the numerous health benefits that exercise provides seniors, it’s also a crucial component in the prevention of injury. Adding balance-based exercises in addition to weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen the core and can aid in preventing falls.” (According to the National Institutes of Health, U.S. hospitals record some 300,000 admissions for broken hips annually; many of those admitted are seniors, and falling is often the cause of their fractures.)

Building balance

For those not in the habit of exercising, Scheff emphasizes, “Seniors don’t need to engage in strenuous exercise in order to realize the benefits. Even light or moderate activity has been shown to improve older people’s health and quality of life.” Ideally, Scheff says, seniors should aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, walking is an excellent activity to start with. Once seniors become used to exercising, they can then increase the intensity of their exercise program.

Lane, who has trained many Hollywood celebrities – young and old – and focuses on science-based training techniques, suggests that seniors include a balance exercise in their workout, such as a single leg knee raise. “Standing on your left foot, raise the right knee,” he explains, “and then bring it back down slowly and in a controlled manner. Alternate legs. As you progress,” adds Lane, “you can try extending and straightening the leg after the knee raise.

“The important thing to remember,” he notes, “is that these exercises are meant to be done in a slow and controlled motion, both on the way up and on the way back down. These exercises are designed to engage our core muscles, and these muscles play a key role in keeping us upright and making sure that we’re stable.”

About Christopher Ross Lane

Christopher Ross Lane is a Certified Personal Trainer. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and holds a certification in the Biomechanics of Resistance Training from the Cooper Aerobics Institute in Texas. His focus is science-based training techniques – especially postural core alignment. Lane has trained some of Hollywood’s A-Lister’s, such as Jillian Michaels (working as her backup trainer on The Biggest Loser) and Valerie Bertinelli. He developed and co-starred in Bertinelli’s Losing It workout DVD and was featured in Bertinelli’s book, Finding It.

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. is among the nation’s largest publicly traded managed health care companies. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. The company’s health plans and government contracts subsidiaries provide health benefits to approximately 6.1 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net’s behavioral health subsidiary, MHN, provides mental health benefits to approximately 6.5 million individuals in all 50 states. The company’s subsidiaries also offer managed health care products related to prescription drugs, and offer managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.

For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit the company’s Web site at


Health Net
Amy Sheyer, 818-676-8304

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