The older you get, the more difficult it can become to stay physically active. In fact, as you entered your forties, you began to lose three-to-five percent of your muscle mass with each subsequent decade of life. Chronic conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis can make certain movements painful, limiting your flexibility and your range of motion. Maybe you simply don’t know what types of exercises are best or safest for your individual needs, or you’re wary of joining the fancy new gym down the street.
However, while exercise is important for those of all ages, active seniors enjoy a variety of additional benefits to their overall health. For instance, senior fitness helps with healthy aging in the following ways:
Managing chronic conditions. The more you move, the better you feel! Exercise is crucial for managing and reducing pain from conditions like arthritis, as regular movement helps lubricate the joints and decrease stiffness. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes and stroke.
Boosting mental health, memory and cognition. Exercise is a known mood-booster, and it may be one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your memory performance, too. Exercise increases heart rate, which helps pump more oxygen to the brain. It also releases a variety of hormones in the brain that promote new cell growth.
Decreasing the need for some medications. A combination of aerobic activity, strength training and flexibility exercises can reduce the need for the variety of medications you may take daily to manage your physical and mental conditions. For instance, exercise can help reduce systolic blood pressure and decrease your need for blood pressure medication.
Preventing falls. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in seniors; in fact, one out of three adults age 65 or older suffer a debilitating fall each year. Adding balance exercises can help keep you steady on your feet and lead to a higher level of independence.
Improving sleep habits. Seniors who suffer from insomnia find that exercise helps exhaust them enough to enjoy restful sleep throughout the night. It makes sense – after all, if you are more active throughout the day, you will be more tired in the evening. Just make sure to avoid strenuous activity two hours before bedtime.
It’s never too late to start exercising! Before you begin any senior fitness program, consult your physician to discuss any health conditions or limitations that may prohibit your progress. Then, set your goals. Clearly define what it is you hope to accomplish by exercising, like losing a specific amount of weight or being able to walk a certain distance within a set period of time.
Find an activity you enjoy so exercise doesn’t feel like a chore. There are a variety of safe exercises seniors of all ability levels can enjoy, from Zumba and swimming to chair yoga and more. Just remember to pace yourself if you’re new to the fitness world. Take it slowly, breaking up the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity into manageable 10-minute increments until you build up some strength and stamina.
At Western Home Communities, you’ll find the extra time you need to lead an active life and extensive wellness programming to meet your needs and interests, from bicycling clubs to balance classes. With two campuses in Cedar Falls and a variety of comfortable living options designed to meet your needs and preferences, you’ll lead a fulfilling lifestyle now and in the future. Call us at 319-277-2141 to schedule a personal tour.