As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent many health problems that seem to come with age. It also helps keep your muscles strong so you can keep doing your daily activities without becoming dependent on others.
People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Those with chronic conditions should understand how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely. When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
Let’s take a close look at 5 reasons/benefits for exercising:
- 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.
- Improved Mental Health
The mental health benefits of exercise are nearly endless. Exercise produces endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which act as a stress reliever and leaves you feeling happy and satisfied. In addition, exercise has been linked to improving sleep.
- Decreased Risks of Falling
Older adults are at a higher risk of falls. Exercise improves strength and flexibility, which also help improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls.
- Social Engagement
Whether you join a walking group or go to group fitness class, exercise can be a fun social event. Maintaining strong social ties is important to feel a sense of purpose and avoid feelings of loneliness or depression. The key is to find a form of exercise you love, and it will never feel like a chore again.
- Improved Cognitive Function
Regular physical activity and fine-tuned motor skills benefit cognitive function. Studies suggest a lower risk of dementia for physically active individuals, regardless of when you begin a routine.
Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age. You may feel discouraged by health problems, or concerns about injuries or falls. If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin, or you may think you’re too old or frail. Or maybe you just think that exercise is boring.
While these may seem like good reasons to slow down and take it easy as you age, they’re even better reasons to get moving. You can gain the benefits from adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving.
What if you hate to exercise?
If you dread working out, you’re not alone. You don’t have to exercise until every muscle aches to make a big difference to your health. Think about activities that you can incorporate them into an exercise routine.
- Window shop while walking laps at the mall.
- Take photographs on a nature hike.
- Meet new people at a yoga class or fitness center.
- Instead of chatting with a friend over coffee, chat while walking, stretching, or strength training.
- Walk the golf course instead of using a cart.
- Go for a run, walk, or cycle when you’re feeling stressed—see how much better you feel afterwards.
- Find an exercise buddy, someone whose company you really enjoy, and try activities you’ve never tried before—you may find something you love. At worst, you’ve spent time with a good friend.
Choose a form of exercise that works best for you. One type of exercise does not fit all people. If you have concerns on what’s best for you, talk to your doctor. One thing is for sure, keep moving and enjoy the type of exercise that works best for you.