Aging causes an automatic loss of strength and stamina. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of that loss is actually caused by reduced physical activity. About 30% of men and almost half of women over the age of 75 do not exercise at all. Yet exercise does so much for a senior's body, mind and spirit!
Physical activity isn't just weights and treadmills. For older adults, exercise includes walking, dancing, gardening, games, sports, even playing with the grandchildren. The World Health Organization suggests seniors aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity throughout the week, in bouts of at least 10 minutes. And the benefits? Here are just a few.
1. Increased flexibility and balance
Falls among older adults bring many injuries from bumps and bruises to more serious broken bones and dislocations. Exercises that improve balance and flexibility help seniors move with confidence, whether walking on uneven cobblestones, bending to tie shoes, turning quickly or reaching a top shelf.
Exercises such as walking, swimming, and dancing improve respiratory and cardiovascular fitness. Stronger lungs and airways, improved heart function, and lower blood pressure then lessen the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. And the enhanced endurance means dancing, walking through the museum, and taking the grandchildren to the zoo become easy, enjoyable, and stress-free activities.
3. Immunity boost and disease prevention
As seniors exercise, muscles get stronger, stress hormone levels drop and immunity improves. Strong bodies fight off infection and recover from injury more easily. Physical activity also lowers the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
4. Bone and joint protection
Physical activity, including aerobics and strength training, builds muscle mass. And the stress of muscle-building stimulates bone-forming cells, making bones stronger and denser and keeping osteoporosis at bay. Stronger bones and joints mean better balance, less arthritis pain, improved mobility and more functional independence.
5. Quality of life
A well-rounded exercise program that includes endurance activities, strength training, balance exercises, and flexibility workouts helps older adults ward off depression and dementia, sleep more soundly, and stay mobile. With these improvements, seniors feel more empowered in their independence and maintain an ongoing sense of well-being.
For some exercise ideas, check out our infographic on senior exercises to help with balance.