It’s no secret. Exercise is good for us at every age. Regular, moderate exercise is linked with better cardiovascular health, better sleep, better sex, and even better mood. Perhaps there is no other group that can benefit more from exercise than seniors. As we age, we tend to slow down a bit. It’s a normal part of the aging process. However, staying active is important. In fact, research suggests that regular, moderate exercise is a key factor in health and longevity as we age.
But there’s more than just health benefits. Working out and staying active into our later years has benefits that might surprise you.
This is the reason most people think of when they think of reasons for exercising. And, to be sure, the physical health benefits of regular, moderate exercise are many. Here are just a few:
- Improved cardiovascular health which can reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke
- Improves blood pressure
- Helps to maintain bone strength and bone density
- Reduces the risk of colon cancer or diabetes
- Improved sleep quality
- Strengthened immune system
- Helps maintain joints and muscles
- Helps reduce the risk of falls and fractures
Regular exercise can also help you feel better emotionally. Older adults are at increased risk for depression and anxiety. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites depression as the most prevalent mental health issue facing older adults. Among adults age 50 or older, 7.7% reported current depression and 15.7% reported a history of depression.
Regular exercise helps to reduce symptoms of depression, boost your mood and energize your spirit. When we exercise, the brain releases lots of feel-good chemicals that can help to regulate mood and improve feelings of well-being.
Exercise is good for your brain too! Exercise has also been shown to improve cognitive function and may help to stave off dementia. Exercise has been linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia.
It’s a common misconception that losing independence is an inevitable part of aging. Many times, that loss of independence is due to a loss of stamina and stability. Of course, there are things that become harder as we age and bodies don’t work they way they once did. However, losing your independence is not inevitable. Regular exercise can help you to maintain your strength and stamina so that you can be as independent as possible for as long as possible.
Falls are a leading cause of injury and loss of mobility for seniors. In fact, one out of four adults fall each year in the US. Exercise can help you to keep your body strong and maintain good balance. The CDC recommends staying active and suggests Tai Chi as a great way to work on strength and balance.
A report from the office of the Surgeon General cites regular exercise as a key factor in longevity. Among it’s many benefits, regular exercise has been consistently shown to reduce the risk of dying prematurely. In particular, exercise can reduce the risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease. It also reduces the risk of developing potentially life-threatening conditions such as diabetes and colon cancer.
Maintain Social Connections
Loneliness and social isolation are a significant issue for older adults. In fact, A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that more than 33% of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Isolation and loneliness have been linked to a number of health issues including premature death, depression, dementia, and increased risk of suicide.
Exercise can help keep you connected to your social network. Exercise doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Exercise can be fun and enjoyable when you do it with friends and family. Take a walk with a friend. Join in a group exercise class. Get a swim buddy. Look for opportunities to get together with friends that also include some movement. You’ll keep your body healthy and stay connected to those you care about.
Regular, moderate exercise can help you to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle and help you to maintain your quality of life and independence for as long as possible. Of course, check with your doctor to be sure you choose an activity that is right for you. Then, find something that you enjoy, grab a friend and reap all the benefits exercise has to offer.