The Importance of Aerobic Exercise for Seniors

Aerobic exercise is essential for healthy aging. It’s been shown to lower the risk of many age-related chronic diseases. Unfortunately, many seniors fail to meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) recommendations for aerobic exercise. According to the CDC, over three in four seniors don’t spend enough time performing aerobic exercise. Why is aerobic exercise important for seniors exactly?

What Is Aerobic Exercise?

Also known as cardio exercise or simply “cardio,” aerobic exercise consists of any physical activity that increases a person’s respiratory rate and heart rate. It promotes cardiovascular conditioning by forcing the heart muscle to work harder.

Aerobic exercise isn’t the same as resistance exercise. Resistance exercises are defined by their use of resistance. They apply resistance, such as a person’s own body weight or free weights like dumbbells, to the muscles. In comparison, aerobic exercises are those that raise a person’s respiratory rate and heart rate.

Common examples of aerobic exercise include the following:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Climbing stairs
  • Yoga
  • Cycling
  • Swimming

Protects Against Heart Disease

Aerobic exercise can lower the risk of heart disease in seniors. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While anyone can develop it, though, heart disease is most common among seniors. According to the CDC, over one in five seniors aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with heart disease. To protect against heart disease, seniors should include aerobic exercise in their weekly workout regimen.

How does aerobic exercise protect against heart disease exactly? When performing it, a senior’s heart will pump faster. As his or her circulation increases, the senior’s blood pressure will improve. At the same time, aerobic exercise encourages the dilation of arteries, meaning the arteries through which blood flows become wider.

Weight Management

In addition to lowering the risk of heart of heart disease, aerobic exercise can help seniors manage their weight. One study found that aerobic exercise alone is an effective solution for weight management. Seniors should still follow a healthy diet, but aerobic exercise offers weight management benefits that can’t be ignored.

When compared to other types of exercise, aerobic exercise burns more calories. A senior’s heart muscle will work harder during aerobic exercise, resulting in more calories being burned. That’s essentially how aerobic exercise works for weight management. Seniors who perform aerobic exercise will burn more calories so that they are able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Lowers Stress Levels

Another benefit of aerobic exercise for seniors is lower stress levels. Stress is a common condition from which seniors suffer. Everyone experiences stress. As we age, however, our stress levels tend to increase.

For lower stress levels, seniors can’t ignore the benefits of aerobic exercise. As explained by Harvard Business Review (HBR), it reduces levels of stress hormones in the body. Stress is caused by elevated levels of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Known as stress hormones, they are responsible for the effects of stress. Aerobic exercise will keep these stress hormones in check so that seniors feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Fights Depression

Aerobic exercise has been shown to curb depression. Depression and stress often go hand in hand. Seniors who suffer from high stress levels often become depressed. This is because stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, are correlated with depression.

Another way that aerobic exercise fights depression is by promoting socialization. While seniors can perform it alone, many of them prefer to perform aerobic exercise in groups. Yoga, for instance, is often performed as a group-based activity. Seniors can particulate in a group-based yoga session to reap the benefits of aerobic exercise. And because it’s a form of socialization, it can help fight depression.

Lower Risk of Injuries

Seniors who regularly perform aerobic exercise are less likely to sustain injuries than those who rarely or never perform aerobic exercise. Fall injuries are common among seniors. Statistics show that nearly one in four seniors will fall in any given year. In seniors, falls can cause broken bones due to the loss of bone density.

The bones in our bodies become less dense as age. As we lose some of our bone density, we become more susceptible to broken bones from falling. Aerobic exercise promotes the production of new bone tissue so that our bones are stronger and better protected from fractures. When seniors perform aerobic exercise, they’ll place pressure on their bones. This pressure encourages their bodies to produce new bone tissue. Seniors will develop stronger and more dense bones, thus lowering their risk of injuries.

Aerobic exercise, of course, also promotes stronger muscles. Strong muscles are important for preventing injuries. They help to stabilize a senior’s body so that injuries from falls, as well as other activities, are less likely.

As you can see, aerobic exercise is important for seniors. It protects against heart disease, promotes weight management, reduces stress levels, fights depression and lowers the risk of injuries.

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