There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues, or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you. But as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health.
Regular physical activity helps improve mental and physical health, both of which will help you maintain your independence as you age.
Health experts advise that regular exercise for the elderly offers great benefits, including extending lifespan. But alarmingly, only one in four people between the ages of 65 and 74 exercise regularly.
BENEFITS OF FITNESS FOR SENIORS
- Prevent Disease. Studies have shown that maintaining regular physical activity can help prevent many common diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Exercise improves overall immune function, which is important for seniors as their immune systems are often compromised. Even light exercise, such as walking, can be a powerful tool for preventable disease management.
- Quality of life. Maintaining functional independence is something many older adults want. A regular exercise inclusive of strength and balance training can help accomplish this.
- Increased balance and stability. Falls are the number one injury among seniors, and regular exercise can help prevent them. Falling leads to injuries like broken hips or other bones, and exercise is a key component to improve functional reach and balance.
- Decreased Risk of Falls. Older adults are at a higher risk of falls, which can prove to be potentially disastrous for maintaining independence. Exercise improves strength and flexibility, which also help improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls. Seniors take much longer to recover from falls, so anything that helps avoid them in the first place is extremely important.
- Improves sleep. Quality sleep is vital for your overall health. Regular activity can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed.
- Boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident.
- Reduced risk of developing dementia. Being sedentary in later years can increase the risk of developing dementia, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study, which analyzed more than 1,600 older adults over five years, found that those who did not exercise were more likely to develop dementia than those who did.
- Heart disease: Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that about one in every four deaths is attributed to heart disease. More people exercising later in life can help reduce the number of individuals with heart disease through the management of blood pressure and blood glucose and decreasing LDL cholesterol.
TYPES OF ACTIVITIES BENEFICIAL TO OLDER ADULTS
- Walking. Walking is a perfect way to start exercising. It requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and can be done anywhere.
- Senior sports or fitness classes. Keeps you motivated while also providing a source of fun, stress relief, and a place to meet friends.
- Water aerobics and water sports. Working out in water reduces stress and strain on the body’s joints.
- Yoga. Combines a series of poses with breathing. Moving through the poses works on strength, flexibility, and balance, and can be adapted to any level.
- Personal Training. If you’re looking for more attention and instruction than group classes provide, working with a personal trainer is a great path to fitness and fun.
Exercise is an important part of nearly everyone’s everyday health. This is true for older adults, too. Experts say seniors should aim to be as active as possible. If you are an older adult, you can reap the many benefits of exercise to live a longer, healthier life.
In the aging population, exercise has been shown to prevent disease, lower the risk of falls, improve mental health and well-being, strengthen social ties, and improve cognitive function.
It is safe for most adults older than 65 years of age to exercise. Even patients who have chronic illnesses can exercise safely. These include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. In fact, many of these conditions are improved with exercise. If you are not sure if exercise is safe for you or if you are currently inactive, ask your doctor.
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