Exercise has countless benefits for those of all ages, including a healthier heart, stronger bones and improved flexibility. For seniors, there are additional benefits, like the fact that regular exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases, lowers the chance of injury and can even improve one’s mood.
As we age, our muscle mass begins to decrease. When we enter our forties, adults can lose 3-5% of muscle mass with each subsequent decade of life. Muscle is an essential contributor to our balance and bone strength; it keeps us strong. Without it, our mobility and independence become compromised.
Exercise is also a key for cognitive function. Scientists have found that brain neurons- the special cells that perform all the necessary function to keep you alive, as well as help you think and improve your memory- all increase after a few weeks of regular exercise. In fact, some researchers found that when individuals walk three or more times a week, the occurrence of dementia was 35% lower than those seniors who were not involved in any type of physical activity.
Key Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Some of the key benefits of exercise for seniors are:
- Improved healing and function – Regular exercise by seniors may decrease the time it takes for a wound to heal by 25%. Also, a healthy, strong body can better fight off infection and makes recovery from illness or injury easier.
- Prevention of disease or chronic conditions – According to the National Institute of Aging, exercising as a senior may delay or even prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease and osteoporosis, just to name a few.
- Increased balance and stability – Falls are the number one injury among seniors, and regular exercise can help prevent them. Falling leads to injuries like broken hips or other bones, and exercise is a key component to improve functional reach and balance.
- Improved quality of life and increased life expectancy – New studies have found that seniors who exercise improve not only their physical fitness but experienced psychological benefits as well. Exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve the mood in general. The increased mobility that comes from regular, moderate exercise can help a senior maintain his or her independence if it is done on a long-term basis. Consistency is more important than intensity.
It is never too late for seniors to start engaging in a regular exercise routine. The key is to find something you enjoy doing, and start at a level that is easy to maintain.