Exercise Is a Critical Part of Aging Well

older couple waking off tennis court after playing

Summer is beginning to wind down and many people use this as an excuse to stop getting the daily exercise they need. As colder weather sets in, people tend to stay indoors more and forego the many benefits of staying physically active.

Exercise and physical activity are an important part of a well-balanced health regimen for people of all ages. But it’s even more important the older we get. 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.

It’s never too late 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 for exercise. 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 benefits the brain as well

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.

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. 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 them perfect exercises 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. Invest in some inexpensive hand weights for arm curls or use household objects like canned goods or old plastic bottles filled 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: Aging, Aging Well