Many aging adults avoid exercise because they are afraid of being injured. Little do they realize that the actual danger lies in becoming too sedentary. As we age, our bones, joints, and muscles naturally begin to deteriorate as cells gradually die off, making us more frail and prone to serious injuries. The only way to combat the aging process is by exercising, which encourages the body to produce new cells and increase muscle and bone density. Fortunately, it is never too late to start an exercise regime and improve your fitness: “In one study, life expectancy was increased even in persons who did not begin exercising regularly until 75 years of age.” No matter your age, fitness level, or mobility limitations, there are low-impact exercises that can improve mobility and promote a healthy life. Find out more about how exercise can positively affect many areas of your life:
Increasing Balance & Preventing Falls
Falls are an all too common occurrence among seniors and even the slightest of slips can have catastrophic consequences for older Americans. Over 40% of people who suffer a hip fracture are unable to return home to live independently. In addition, 25% of seniors who suffer a fall pass away shortly after their injury. Simple balance exercises and resistance training can strengthen stabilizer muscles that aid in balance and ultimately help prevent falls and potentially fatal injuries.
Research has found that practicing tai chi is especially helpful to seniors. This ancient form of exercise has its roots in martial arts and involves slow, deliberate movements. Practitioners methodically transition between poses while concentrating on their breathing, emphasizing the mind/body connection. This form of exercise is especially helpful to seniors because it is low impact that reduces stress and improves balance and flexibility.
Prevent or Delay Disease
Aging naturally causes a loss in bone density that can result in Osteoporosis, Arthritis, and other diseases, especially in adults who have additional risk factors. While most people associate exercise with losing fat and gaining muscle, strength and resistance training also affect bone density. As you engage in challenging exercises, your body responds by increasing blood flow and creating cells that add new layers of bone growth. This increases bone density and strength, actually making it harder to incur fractures and breaks. Without exercise, cells will continue to die without being replaced, resulting in weakened bones. In addition to low-impact cardiovascular exercise, seniors should incorporate weight bearing movements into their exercise routine. This doesn’t mean slinging around massive weights at the gym. Even powerwalking and dancing can have a beneficial impact on bone density that can help prevent or delay the onset of Osteoporosis and other bone and joint related diseases.
Combat Depression & Dementia
In addition to having physical benefits, exercise can also affect your emotional and mental well-being. Getting older can mean facing a combination of major life changes and stressors all at once. Dealing with the loss of loved ones, a decrease in mobility, and a lack of purpose, can make seniors especially prone to depression. Research shows that older adults experience clinical depression at over twice the rate of the rest of the population. Exercise can be the most valuable tool seniors have when it comes to boosting their mood and fighting depression. In fact, for some patients, regular exercise is just as effective as anti-depressant medications.
Research has also proven that there is a direct link between a strong body and a strong mind. Lack of physical activity can cause cognitive decline and increased instances of dementia and Alzheimer disease. However, if you engage in regular physical activity, you can lower your risk of dementia by 24%. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can significantly improve your mood and cognitive abilities, thus ensuring a better quality of life.
Help in Healing
Because the body naturally slows down the production of new cells as it ages, older adults experience longer healing time after illnesses, injuries, and surgeries. However, regular exercise can speed up the process by 25%. While you might not be able to fight all the side effects of aging, you can make sure that you are able to recover quickly and return to your active lifestyle.
Despite the fact that exercise can boast a whole host of benefits, 75% of older Americans do not exercise enough to receive positive results. This is due, in large part, to the all too common myth that exercise will actually put them at more risk of falling and being injured. The truth is that regular exercise is our best weapon in fighting the physical, emotional, and mental side effects of aging. Even if you haven’t been active in years or you are chair bound, there are exercises and programs that can be specially designed to challenge your body, promote new cell growth, and improve your quality of life. Get moving today!
About the Author: Amy Blitchok is a professional writer and researcher who is interested in issues affecting seniors and aging in place. She currently writes for U.S. Medical Supplies.