23 Sep Why Regular Physical Activity Is Important for Seniors
Regular physical activity plays an important role in the health and overall well-being of seniors. Unfortunately, many seniors don’t get the recommended amount of exercise.
Statistics show just one-third of adults aged 65 and older meet the exercise recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week and resistance-training exercise for at least two days a week. By exercising on a regular basis, seniors can take advantage of the following benefits.
Promotes Stronger Bones
Over 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for hip fractures each year in the United States, according to the CDC. As we age, our bones become less dense, making them more susceptible to fracture. However, seniors can lower their risk of bone fractures — as well as curb the effects of osteoporosis — by exercising on a regularly basis.
Weight-bearing exercises and resistance exercises are particularly effective at promoting stronger bones. The former involves the use of gravity to engage muscles, whereas the latter uses physical weights, such as dumbbells, to engage muscles. Unlike resistance-free exercises, both weight-bearing and resistance exercises exert force upon bones. When a senior engages in either of these exercise types, his or her body will respond by building new bone tissue with calcium and collagen.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Physically active seniors typically have healthier blood pressure levels than their counterparts who perform little or no exercise.
Also known as hypertension, chronically high blood pressure is a serious medical condition that can lead to other diseases like kidney disease, coronary artery disease and even dementia. While following a low-sodium diet can help to regulate blood pressure levels, there’s no substitution for regular physical activity.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to promote healthy blood pressure levels by strengthening the heart. When a senior performs aerobic exercise, his or her heart will become stronger. As a result, the senior’s heart can pump blood more easily, allowing for less pressure inside the arteries.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Because of the role exercise plays in regulating blood pressure, it can lower the risk of heart disease in seniors as well. When high blood pressure remains unchecked, it can lead to the narrowing of the arteries. Eventually, the arteries can become so narrow and/or clogged that it restricts the heart from receiving blood, thus leading to a heart attack.
Lowers Risk of Cancer
You might be surprised to learn that regular exercise can lower the risk of cancer in seniors. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), exercise has been linked to a lower risk of over a dozen different types of cancer, including color, breast, endometrial, kidney, stomach, esophageal and more.
It’s unknown exactly how regular exercise is able to lower the risk of cancer, but the evidence is clear: Seniors who are physically active have a lower risk of developing cancer. This is just one more reason why all seniors should engage in regular exercise.
Reduces Symptoms of Arthritis
Roughly half of all adults aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with arthritis. Defined as inflammation of the joints, it can make otherwise simple tasks like holding a cup or picking up a bag painfully difficult (or even impossible). The good news is that exercising on a regular basis can reduce the symptoms and severity of arthritis.
Exercise engages the joints so that they are able to flex and move more freely. At the same time, exercise has been shown to alleviate pain associated with arthritis.
Regular exercise can improve the mobility in seniors as well. Many seniors have limited mobility. Whether it’s caused from arthritis or other medical conditions, though, exercise may help.
Practically all forms of physical activity can improve mobility in seniors. Walking, swimming or even performing basic “sit-to-stand” exercises will engage a senior’s muscles and joints, allowing for improved mobility.
Increases Social Interaction
A benefit of regular physical activity for seniors that’s often overlooked is increased social interaction. While seniors can exercise alone, many prefer to exercise in groups where they can can talk and converse with other health-conscious seniors.
There are workout classes, for instance, that are designed specifically for seniors. They typically consist of low-impact exercises that are safe yet still beneficial for seniors. By participating in such classes, seniors can meet new people and enjoy a more socially active lifestyle.
Finally, exercise can lower the risk of depression in seniors. It’s estimated that roughly 7 million adults aged 65 and older suffer from depression. That means seniors have a higher risk of depression than young and middle-aged adults. But exercise can fight depression by promoting the release of natural hormones and chemicals in the body.
When a senior exercises, his or her body will produce more endorphins — a hormone that’s been known to fight depression and improve overall mental health.
Exercise is important for people of all ages, and seniors are no exception. These are just a few reasons why all seniors should stay physically active.