6 Ways Physical Activity Helps Older Adults Live Longer and Healthier
Did you know that humans start losing bone density as early as age 30? As we get older, decreasing muscle mass and bone density eventually leads to loss of strength and balance. While some of these changes can be attributed to the natural aging process, they can be exacerbated by a lack of regular exercise.
Exercise is important for people of all ages, but it’s especially important for older adults. Physical activity comes with a myriad of benefits that can help older adults improve their health, their mood, and their lifespan.
1. Strengthens the Heart
Regular physical activity keeps the heart strong and improves circulation throughout the body. It makes the heart more efficient by strengthening its muscles, which makes it easier to pump blood. This also can help maintain a slower heart rate, as the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to circulate blood.
Exercise is also very beneficial for people with high blood pressure or hypertension. In some cases, it can be as effective as medication in lowering blood pressure. Additionally, exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, which is the second leading cause of death in Canada.
2. Keeps Bones Healthy
Older adults commonly experience loss of bone mass and density which gets worse with age. This can lead to decreased mobility, increased fall risks, and development of conditions like osteoarthritis. However, exercise can help dramatically in improving bone density and keeping bones healthy.
Many people may think that bone density loss can’t be reversed, but bones are made of living tissue and can be strengthened with exercise. Having strong bones reduces the risk of falls, which are the number one cause of injury among seniors. Regular exercise also improves balance and mobility, which help prevent falls as well.
3. Improves Mental Health and Sleep
Exercising regularly has been shown to improve mood and alleviate feelings of depression or anxiety. Physical activity produces endorphins, which reduce pain and provide a positive feeling in the body. It’s a great way to reduce stress, and it can improve self-esteem as well.
Physical activity has also been shown to improve sleep, and can be helpful for people suffering from insomnia. Exercise tires out the body and makes it easier to get to sleep more quickly. People who exercise regularly also tend to sleep more deeply and feel better rested in the morning.
4. Protects Against Memory Issues
Memory issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s are common among older adults, and get more widespread the older they are. However, regular exercise has been shown to have a marked impact on preventing cognitive decline and memory issues by protecting the brain.
Regular exercise can decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50%. This is because it helps increase the number of neurons in the brain, which improves memory and other brain functions. Even light exercise like gardening or going for short walks can help boost brain health.
5. Prevents Certain Conditions and Diseases
In addition to the conditions mentioned previously in the article, exercise can also reduce the risk of developing ailments such as diabetes, obesity, osteoarthritis, and high cholesterol. It can also help manage the swelling and pain caused by arthritis by lubricating the joints with synovial fluid.
Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer. This could be due to the fact that exercise helps improve the immune system, which helps the body fight off illness and infection more effectively.
6. Reduces Risk of Mortality
The risk of mortality has been shown to be significantly decreased for older adults who exercise consistently. This is due to the variety of health benefits that exercise can provide. A healthy body and mind leads to a longer life.
Research has found that even low levels of exercise provide benefits. Older adults that engage in light exercise have a 22% reduced risk of mortality compared to those who do not exercise at all. Those who perform moderate to vigorous levels of exercise benefit from a 28% reduced risk.
Exercise has so many health benefits, especially for older adults. It improves mortality and morbidity, boosts mental health, and strengthens the immune system. It helps prevent falls and heart disease, which are two of the biggest health risks associated with aging. Anything from short walks to household chores can help, so there’s no excuse not to do it. Everyone should find the time to fit some exercise into their daily schedule.
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