Senior Living Blog

Exercise Remains Important, Even as We Age

May 20, 2019

a senior man and woman lifting weights in a gym

May is National Physical Fitness Month. This is a good reminder that engaging in physical activity is an essential part of maintaining good health, even as we age. In fact, the older we get, the more important exercise becomes. Seniors need to exercise more than their younger counterparts because they are at greater risk for the diseases that exercise can prevent, which include heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among others. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise protects the body against chronic diseases, improves mood and lowers risk of injury.

You’re never too older to start exercising
Many seniors feel that because they’ve never been physically active, it’s too late for them to get any real benefit from starting later in life. But research demonstrates that exercise provides amazing benefits, even for those who start later in life. British researchers conducted a study of seniors’ activity level over the course of eight years. They discovered that those who were inactive at the start of the study, but who become active and sustained it during the study’s duration were seven times more likely than inactive participants to age healthfully.

Exercise is also good for the mind
Not only does exercise keep your brain from shrinking, it may help ward off diseases like Alzheimer’s and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing the disease by 50 percent. A 2017 report published in the journal NeuroImage analyzed numerous clinical trials involving people before and after participating in an aerobic exercise program. The program consisted of stationary bicycling, walking and running on a treadmill. This analysis confirmed that aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

Here are some exercises that are particularly good for seniors:

Swimming is a great choice for seniors, because it’s not only a total body workout – building strength and endurance –it’s also low impact, making it an ideal choice for those with joint pain or back problems.

Yoga and tai chi are great for balance and stretching and are also low impact, making them particularly good exercises for those with mobility challenges, as we discussed in this post. Yoga can also build strength and both have the added benefit of helping to manage stress.

Walking and hiking are great endurance exercises and also low-impact, making it a perfect exercise for most everyone. It has the added benefit of taking you from one place to another, so you can multitask by exercising while doing errands.

Weightlifting is the easiest way to build strength quickly. And you don’t even need to go the gym to do it! Pushups, sit-ups and leg squats are all great strength-building exercises and can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Do arm curls with household objects like canned goods or fill up old plastic bottles with water.

Range of motion exercises are gentle stretching exercises that can help ease the symptoms of arthritis. These can be as simple as rotating the neck and wrists, clenching and unclenching your hand into a fist, and lying on your back and bending your knee toward your chin.

 According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, almost all older people can benefit from increased physical activity. Be sure and check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Categories: Healthy Aging