Top 10 Benefits Seniors Experience When Exercising
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “exercise”? For a lot of people, the word “exercise” conjures up images of men benching huge weights at a gym or a young woman with a trim waistline bouncing around at the front of an aerobics class. Although these are certainly ways to get physically fit, if you’re an older adult, these images may quickly be followed by your body’s reminder that it just doesn’t bend that way anymore.
As you grow older, exercise just doesn’t look the same as it used to. Your knees may ache, and your arms might be weak. Maybe you just have a lack of energy.
So what’s a senior adult to do?
Whether you’re 28 or 82, it’s important to make daily exercise a priority. In fact, if you’re over the age of 65, it’s important to plan for 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week — approximately 30 minutes each day — or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Why is exercise for senior citizens so important?
Regular exercise for older adults provides many significant physical benefits and mental benefits. No matter your age, you’ll feel better physically and mentally if you make time to get active and stay that way.
Top 10 Ways Exercise Benefits Seniors
Regular movement at any age has health benefits. And sure, most of us could probably stand to lose a few pounds. But the correlations between exercise and senior health go way beyond the scale. As you age, exercise has a significant impact on overall health and wellbeing. Exercise is essential to keeping your body stronger longer. It keeps you independent and self-sufficient, and it even protects against some pretty serious health conditions.
Among the numerous benefits of exercise for aging adults, you’ll find:
1. Improved Bone Health
Muscle-strengthening and weight training exercises aren’t just about strengthening muscles and increasing their mass. They also require the bones inside of your body to work harder too. So while you’re building up muscles, you’re also building up bone density. Improving your bone density can reduce the risk of osteoporosis or osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. In turn, this reduces your risk of breaking bones and facing more pain and limited mobility.
2. Improved Cardiovascular Strength
Regular aerobic exercise and strength training improves the strength of your heart muscle. When your heart muscle is stronger, daily activities such as climbing stairs, lifting a laundry basket or trimming bushes won’t put as great a strain on the heart, which reduces your risk of a heart attack. Besides keeping your heart muscle stronger, regular exercise can lower blood pressure and increase energy levels so you can enjoy your favorite hobbies for longer periods without needing to stop for a break.
3. Reduced Risk of Dementia
Exercise improves blood flow throughout your body, including your brain. This helps the human body flush out unwanted products from the brain, preventing issues with memory loss, the ability to process information and problem solving — which can eventually lead to dementia if left untreated. The activity also gets you up and out of the house, often around other people, and gives you opportunities to interact and engage with others to keep your mind sharp.
4. Decreased Risk of Falls
When you engage in balance and flexibility exercises such as yoga, you decrease the risk of falling because you improve your balance as well as your body’s ability to understand where it is in space. Besides that, balance exercises can help an older adult be more in tune with their body’s movements and, even if they can’t prevent a fall, they can fall in a way that is less detrimental to their physical well being.
Along with physically improving balance and flexibility, doing these types of exercises can improve your confidence in your ability to move around with ease. When your body feels stronger and you’re more in tune with what your muscles are doing, you can move around confidently and not spend your days living in fear of losing control in a fall. When you’re more confident in your body’s abilities, then you can be a more active adult!
5. Increased Range of Motion and Flexibility
Similarly, regular exercise has a positive impact on your body’s flexibility and range of motion. When a joint is limited in its normal range of mobility, then your body can’t perform tasks as it should. What may start as a simple twinge when you lift a bag of groceries can decline over time into an inability to put away dishes or walk to the mailbox. Regular strength training exercises, as well as stretches to maintain flexibility help prevent stiffness and decline in joint mobility over time.
Even if you have an injury or lack of mobility, exercise is important because it can help prevent injury in other areas of your body. How? When one area of your body is injured, another area will compensate for it. If one muscle is sore or isn’t working right, you may inadvertently engage another muscle to compensate for that. In turn, this makes you more susceptible to injuries in the joints and muscles you’re using to compensate.
6. Better Quality Sleep
With regular exercise comes regular sleep. Temperature fluctuations during and after a workout can help your body fall asleep quicker and get into the deep, restorative sleep it needs to stay healthy and strong. Besides providing you with more energy during the day, regular restorative sleep helps the body to maintain higher levels of cognitive functioning — memory and concentration — as well as reduce the risk of injury due to fatigue or impaired physical functioning.
7. Improved Mood
As many adults get older, it’s natural to experience periods of feeling down or even some depression over changes taking place in your life. Perhaps you’re adjusting to retirement or a beloved friend passed away without warning. Or maybe your only child moved away to pursue a new job opportunity. Whatever it may be, it’s natural that you may experience periods of feeling blue. Exercise of all kinds triggers the body to release endorphins, a chemical that improves mood and feelings of happiness.
Besides stimulating your body’s natural chemicals to do their thing, engaging in an exercise class or fitness club geared toward senior adults is a great way to socialize and develop friendships with other seniors nearby. The social benefits of exercise for elderly adults goes a long way in boosting their mood and improving their outlook.
That being said, if you have tried socializing and regular exercise, but you are still experiencing feelings of sadness or despair that won’t go away, please talk with your doctor. Although depression is a common occurrence in older adults, it is not a standard part of aging and should never be ignored.
According to the World Health Organization, lack of physical activity is one of the leading causes of death around the world. This is because a sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart problems, obesity, diabetes, an increased risk of colon cancer and several other potentially fatal health conditions. Engaging in regular physical activity such as swimming or walking gets you off of your chair and reduces the risk of some of these serious — and fatal — conditions.
Even if you aren’t engaging in an organized activity such as walking or weight training, making a point to move around and stay active is essential to maintaining your health longer. Practical ways to get up and move each day include walks around the neighborhood, yard work and grocery shopping.
9. Prevent or Delay the Impact of a Disease
When you exercise regularly, you keep your heart beating and blood flowing. This reduces the risk of developing many heart-related conditions and reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke. Although exercise does not always prevent the onset of certain diseases or health conditions, regular exercise can also be beneficial in managing conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or high cholesterol.
10. Mental Health
As we mentioned before, aging and depression can go hand-in-hand. However, you can combat depression through exercise. The psychological benefits of exercise for older adults come through improved brain function by enabling the brain to make new connections and ultimately relieve symptoms of depression. It’s worth noting that this does take a commitment to regular exercise. Taking a walk once in a while isn’t going to cure depression, but engaging in regular activity can give your body the tools it needs to heal and restore your brain’s functions.
Myths About Activity as You Get Older
Even if all the benefits of exercise for seniors make sense, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. After all, it’s not as easy to move as it was when you were younger. Maybe you’re limited in your ability to leave the house or you just don’t bend like you used to. Maybe you’re afraid of falling and you don’t want to risk ending up back in the hospital like you did the last time. Or maybe you’ve bought into one of the myths that say old people and exercise just don’t mix. We’re here to dispel the top five myths about exercising as you age.
Myth #1: I’m Too Old to Exercise
You’re never too old to get moving! If you aren’t sure where to start or have an existing health condition, check with your doctor for advice on where to begin. They can point you toward some good, safe options to help you build your confidence and your body. But don’t think for one second that you’re too old, even if you’ve never been an incredibly active adult.
Myth #2: Old People Aren’t Athletic
When you were younger, you might have played basketball, softball or football. Maybe you ran, swam or played tennis with your friends. While you may not be able to run sprints up and down a football field or yield a tennis racquet as you did 60 years ago, there are still many ways to find that sense of purpose and accomplishment in your physical activity. Develop realistic goals and determine what milestones you’ll celebrate along the way. And remember — you’ll be able to do a lot more for a lot longer if you maintain an active lifestyle rather than a sedentary one.
Myth #3: I Have Too Many Health Issues to Exercise
Exercise can also be a great tool to use in managing certain health issues, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, so don’t use your health as a reason to avoid movement. But older adults often use the excuse of aches and pains or muscle weakness to prevent them from engaging in regular physical activity. Believe it or not, regular exercise can actually reduce the amount of pain you experience from certain conditions, such as arthritis. And, over time, as you build up muscle, your body may experience fewer aches and pains and you may see an improvement in your mobility.
Myth #4: I Can’t Exercise — I’m Disabled
You may face some unique challenges when it comes to mobility, but there are more exercise options than ever for adults who use a mobility device such as a wheelchair or have another disability. You can participate in chair yoga, weight-training exercises and aerobic exercises. Many public swimming pools offer wheelchair access to their patrons for water fitness as well. It may take a little bit of sleuthing to find a program nearby that fits your needs, but there are plenty of options available.
Myth #5: There’s No Point in Staying Healthy at My Age
There’s no age limit on good health. Maintaining a regular routine of physical activity will keep you healthier longer. It prevents certain health conditions and helps you manage those that are unavoidable. And the longer you stay healthy, the longer you can maintain your independence and continue doing the things you love.
Talk to Your Doctor
Although regular exercise is recommended for older adults, it’s important to talk with your doctor if you’re considering beginning a new exercise routine. Your doctor can help you determine which types of exercise will be most beneficial to you at your age and in managing any existing health conditions you may have. It’s important to ask your doctor questions about exercise and its impact on your body, including:
- Is it safe for me to begin to exercise?
- What types of exercise do you recommend I start with?
- Does my current health condition mean I have certain limitations?
- Are there exercises I should avoid?
- How can I tell if I’m doing too much?
Heart-Healthy Exercises for Seniors
If you’re just beginning an exercise program it can be difficult to know where to start. At Excellence In Fitness, we aren’t just another gym. Our goal is to provide one-on-one guidance to adults of all ages who want to become a healthier, happier version of themselves. We are especially proud of our programs for adults over 50 because we have seen firsthand the benefits of staying active as you age, and our trainers are experienced in working with older adults with a variety of health challenges and backgrounds.
It’s never too late to work toward health and healing. Contact us today to set up a free consultation and demo workout.