Exercise is crucial for overall health and wellness. While increased mental clarity and longevity are two of the most known benefits, exercise also boosts energy and improves strength and quality of sleep. Everyone should work toward 30 minutes of daily activity, but this is particularly important for those who are 55+. There are so many benefits of exercise for seniors to take advantage of.
As you get older, it gets more important to maintain an active lifestyle due to all of the mental and physical changes that come with age. You can’t reverse aging, but you can do everything in your power to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you age more gracefully. While there are some things that can make physical activity difficult at that age, the benefits of exercise for seniors are certainly worth it.
1 Lose Fat
Obviously, one of the main benefits of exercise for seniors (and everyone else) is fat loss! With age, muscle mass decreases and fat mass increases in the body, which means seniors are at a higher risk of all of the consequences that come along with having a high percentage of fat mass. These adverse effects include increased probability of disability, limited mobility, and decreased physical function. Additionally, seniors experience hormonal changes that make it more difficult to manage weight. Besides maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise and activity both burn calories, which contributes directly to fat loss. Just 30 minutes of regular exercise a day, when paired with a caloric deficit, can stimulate weight loss.
2 Better Bone Density
As we age, people lose bone density and muscle mass. Strength training can combat the deterioration of bone and muscle and allows you to maintain levels of strength necessary for day to day life. Increasing bone density can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, which is particularly important for women, who have a one in two chance of breaking a bone due to porous, brittle bones.
3 Reduced Risk of Dementia
Exercise distributes oxygen evenly throughout the body and removes waste from our muscles and organs. Waste products in the brain can hinder memory, processing, and problem-solving over time, which could lead to dementia. By removing these, you’re promoting adequate blood flow to the brain. While you can’t completely prevent dementia, you can reduce your risk through an improved diet and physical and mental exercise. Did you know that physical exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes? These conditions are all risk factors for dementia, and by reducing your risk of these, you can decrease the likelihood of dementia.
4 Social Engagement
As we age, loneliness can become a serious health risk. It can cause distress, suffering, and impaired quality of life. According to a study, loneliness is also associated with an increased risk of death. From group exercise classes to walking groups, make exercise a social activity by getting engaged with other people.
5 Makes You Happier
Talk about a mood booster! Regular exercise releases endorphins into the brain, which can reduce depression and make you happy. As we age, we lose our dopamine stores that can be easily replenished through regular activity. Exercise also reduces stress and eases your anxiety. Due to the low-level physical stress brought on by exercise, your body will regulate and have an easier time handling life’s regular stressors.
6 Sleep Better
Exercise is “a beneficial stressor to the body. [And] the brain compensates for the physical stress by increasing the amount of time you spend in a deep sleep.” It is because of this and the fluctuation in core body temperature we experience that regular exercise promotes better sleep overall and facilitates sleepiness. With as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise regularly, you’ll find that the quality of your sleep is drastically improved. You’ll find that you wake up feeling more refreshed and energetic! Sleeping well can improve cognitive and physical function and reduce your risk of injury.
7 Improved Cognitive Function
Regular exercise can increase cognitive function. There are links to daily activity and improved memory. Exercise also stimulates chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells. Exercise promotes brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change throughout life and modify or re-wire itself. This is important because, without it, the brain cannot recover from an injury and would not be able to develop from infancy to adulthood.
Improved Quality of Life
These are only some of the benefits of exercise for seniors. There are many more to consider when deciding whether or not to make exercise a part of your routine. Seniors who are active experience a decreased risk of disease, increased metabolic function, and increased flexibility and range of motion. Overall, your quality of life is changed with the addition of 30 minutes of daily exercise. This includes increased levels of confidence and the ability to be independent longer.
Worried about the physical effects of exercise; the aches and pains and bumps and bruises that come along with a hard workout? There are plenty of low impact activities that you can take part in while still strengthening your body. Consider meeting with a personal trainer and consult your physician to find the best exercise plan that fits you.