Few people enjoy the aging process or welcome it with open arms.
In fact, you’ll often hear older ones telling younger folks, “Don’t get old– it’s no fun!”
Age can bring a wealth of experience and wisdom. But it also ushers in several challenges–from occasional aches and pains to serious health issues.
As we get older, it’s not uncommon to struggle with diminished energy, increased frequency of illness, or the pain of age-related injuries.
Thankfully, it’s possible to defy the traditional confines of aging.
What is this magical solution to aging? It’s physical activity, which some have dubbed “the fountain of youth.”
Today, we’ll look at the transformative power of physical activity for seniors. We’ll uncover how much activity is needed, as well as ways to stave off illness and injury and keep looking and feeling your best.
Deciphering the Role of Physical Activity–The Science Behind Aging Healthfully
According to the National Institute of Aging, physical activity is the “cornerstone of healthy aging.”
A 2020 study followed adults over 40 to discover the benefits of physical activity. They found that people who walked at least 8,000 steps daily reduced their risk of death by over 50%. They were compared to people who walked at least 4,000 steps daily.
But you don’t just have to walk to see the benefits of keeping your body moving. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, gardening, and other activities can help reduce your risk of developing:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Active Aging: How Staying Physically Fit Preserves Your Strength
One of the things seniors must monitor regularly is their bone density. Osteoporosis can lead to fractured bones, resulting in prolonged hospital stays, extended recovery, and reduced mobility.
Harvard researchers found that people start losing an average of one percent of bone mass per year from:
- Hormonal changes
- Age-related changes
- Inadequate nutrition
However, regular exercise can help strengthen your bones, muscles, and heart.
According to ResearchGate, physical activity can help to:
- Slow the rate of bone loss
- Maintain muscle strength
- Maintain optimal physical function
- Prevent falls
Harvard researchers found that strength or weight training is particularly helpful. It can help slow bone loss and even build bone. Lifting weights puts stress on the muscles and bones. That stress can result in denser, stronger bones that are more resistant to fracture.
Unlock Your Brain’s Power by Exercising Your Mind
A study published in 2023 found that regular exercise can slow cognitive decline. In fact, it can and should be used in conjunction with other therapies to treat people already experiencing cognitive decline.
While our focus today is on physical activity, don’t forget you can exercise your brain in other ways, too. Learning new things, playing puzzles and mind games, and reading can improve brain power. These cognitive exercises can help keep you young mentally when combined with physical activity.
Regular Exercise Reduces Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that exercise helped seniors mentally and emotionally during the pandemic. They found that even light exercise helped boost mood and alleviate some of the mental health impacts of isolation.
Physical activity in seniors has also been linked to:
- Less stress
- Less anxiety
- A sense of safety and security
- Improved confidence
- Improved self-esteem
Exercise as Medicine: How Exercise Strengthens Immune Defenses
One of the ways exercise is good for the immune system is that it promotes better sleep. The National Institute on Aging recommends that seniors get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. A quality night’s sleep can reduce mental and physical stress on the body, boosting immune health.
Other ways exercise can boost immune health:
- It can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways
- It causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells
- The brief rise in body temperature from exercise can help the body fight infection
- Exercise slows the release of stress hormones
How Physical Activity Can Aide Chronic Disease Management
People with chronic conditions may suffer from chronic pain. Regular, gentle exercise can help ease pain by releasing pain-killing chemicals in the brain.
Those with diabetes can benefit from exercise because it helps keep them at a healthy weight. Exercise can also help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Seniors with heart disease do well to exercise daily to help with circulation and regulate blood pressure.
Even people with cancer can benefit from physical activity. Exercise can help:
- Improve the body’s response to cancer treatments
- Reduce treatment- or cancer-related fatigue
- Maintain lung and heart health
- Maintain strength
- Maintain physical ability
Social Wellness–Staying Active in a Social Context
Another significant benefit of regular exercise is that it can be a source of social connection.
More and more seniors struggle with loneliness. Community exercise groups can be a way for seniors to stay healthy physically and emotionally.
Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity into Your Daily Life
Start by talking to your healthcare provider. They’ll know your medical history and what type of exercise suits your current health and physical abilities.
Next, set realistic goals and create an exercise routine. You might consider talking to a personal trainer who can help you set goals and monitor your progress.
Remember that adding exercise to your day doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a walk after lunch or dinner. Join a water aerobics class a few times per week. Follow a “Weightlifting for Seniors” routine on YouTube. The options are endless!
Physical Activity Can Improve Your Quality of Life Now and in the Future
Physical activity is one of the keys to aging well and living life to its fullest.
Staying active isn’t just a matter of physical health. It’s a profound investment in your overall well-being. It’s the secret to maintaining vitality, cognitive function, and emotional balance.
Whether you enjoy a morning swim, an evening walk, or more vigorous exercise, you can be sure that the more active you are, the more living you’ll be able to do!
Are you curious about caregiving as a career choice? Reach out now to explore your caregiving path. Call Homewatch CareGivers at 888-404-5191 today!