Decreased muscle strength and bone density with age does not mean you have to lead a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity provides a number of benefits for older adults, including greater strength and stamina, improved mental and cognitive health and lower risks for sarcopenia, muscle atrophy and other conditions.
For older adults, walking, gardening, light yardwork and bird-watching can get you moving with less intensity. Understand why it’s important to stay physically active with age.
Improved Physical Health
Over the years, studies have found a correlation between consistent physical activity and lower risks for age-related health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Supporting this relationship:
- Exercise can be an immune booster. Remaining active can fortify the immune system against age-related, inflammatory and other chronic diseases.
- Exercise supports bone, muscle and joint health. Specifically, reduced swelling related to inflammatory conditions like arthritis and strengthening bone tissue. Among older adults, exercise can help reduce bone loss and related fracture risks.
- Regular exercise helps maintain lung and airway health. Essential as you get older, cardiovascular health can help reduce pneumonia risks.
- Remaining physically active can help improve your balance. This can help lower fall injury risks and helps you maintain your independence.
- Continuing to move can help with osteoarthritis. Movement, especially from low-impact activities and range of motion exercises, can help people better manage pain and stiffness related to arthritis.
- Exercise can prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms. Research has shown that individuals who regularly engage in 30 minutes of exercise a day are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Improved Mental Health
Exercise has a reputation for its ability to release endorphins, which subsequently elevate your mood and help reduce stress. For older adults, these effects can also improve sleep quality, including insomnia.
Also related to mental health, older adults tend to get physical activity in groups, from walking partners to gardening clubs and attending exercise classes. These interactions keep connections strong, helping reduce risks for loneliness and depression in the process.
Lower Fall Risks
Remaining physically active is key for reducing fall risks and related injuries with age. Walking can help improve your:
- Physical strength and joint flexibility
- Balance and coordination
- Body’s ability to recover and bounce back after a fall
In turn, these factors help you maintain a more independent lifestyle.
Stronger Cognitive Health
Along with related physical benefits, coordination and routinely engaging your fine motor skills help improve cognitive health and lower risks for dementia.
What Happens When Physical Activity Level Declines?
This lifestyle shift, often a result of anxiety about fall risks and other injuries, can lead to an increase in body fat percentage and decrease in lean body mass. Muscle atrophy may also occur, affecting your physical strength and increasing risk for sarcopenia.
Staying Physically Active as You Grow Older
Although low-impact exercise and strength training offer multiple benefits, only a moderate amount of physical activity is needed to experience its effects. Based on your activity level:
- Start with 10 minutes of physical activity a day and gradually increase to 30 minutes.
- Develop a plan with doctor and discuss risks related to your health and fitness level.
- Consider strength training for older adults, which typically involves weights no more than 2 lbs. and modified positions like wall pushups.
- Try yoga and Pilates to help improve flexibility, stability and core strength.
- If standing is a challenge, consider exercises that you can do sitting or lying down.
- If you find it difficult to stick with a schedule, sign up for a fitness class for seniors.
As you look to remain active and social with age, consider therapeutic recreation at Avon Health Center. To learn more about our services, contact us today.
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