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11 Ways Seniors Can Benefit from Exercise

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Every part of the body is subject to the aging process, including your body's architecture. Bones become more fragile, and muscle strength diminishes. That's why exercise at all ages is so important. Exercise is vital because it helps maintain muscle strength, and even rebuilds some lost lean muscle mass. Additionally, some studies show people who exercise live longer.

According to the National Institute on Aging, adults over the age of 65 who engage in moderate-intensity exercises for 25 minutes per day (3 times per week) increase their survival rate by an extra eighteen months. Studies also show exercising is a great way to combat health problems such as arthritis, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Exercise doesn't just enhance longevity, it helps seniors stay functional too. Activities such as walking, swimming, and even aerobics help seniors remain independent and maintain a high quality of life.

Here is a list of the top 11 reasons active seniors are healthier and happier than senior citizens who do not exercise:

Improved circulation

As we age, blood vessels harden, restricting the flow of blood throughout the body. A sedentary lifestyle means less oxygen transported to the brain and other vital organs. Regular exercise helps improve blood flow and increases oxygen flow to the brain. This promotes healthy cognitive function.

Increased muscle strength

With age, muscles look and feel thinner because of a loss of muscle mass. Daily exercise helps recover some of the lost muscle. Resistance training stimulates the growth of new muscle fibers while strengthening existing ones.

Weight management assistance. 

Exercise enables seniors to burn more calories, which helps with weight control. Plus, increasing muscle mass gives your resting metabolism a subtle boost to help you maintain a healthier body weight.

Increased bone density. 

With age, bone mass decreases. Regular exercise helps strengthen bones and may even rebuild some lost bone density too.

Improved mood

Exercise can have an immediate and beneficial effect on mood. A study, published in the journal Biological Psychology in 2004, found that a 30-minute session of indoor cycling led to a feeling of euphoria in most participants.

Decreased pain/discomfort from chronic conditions such as arthritis 

Studies have shown that low-impact exercises like walking help improve joint discomfort and lessen the need for painkillers and other medications.

Better self-esteem and mental health

Studies show exercise can improve self-esteem in older adults and reduce the risk of depression. A 2009 study showed that people who exercised were less likely to become depressed after 12 weeks than people who didn't engage in exercise.

Increased life expectancy

Studies show seniors who exercise regularly have a 33% higher chance of living past the age of 75 than seniors who are sedentary.

Better sleep

Studies have shown a significant association between exercise and quality of sleep. A good night's rest is essential for maintaining an active lifestyle.

Greater flexibility

Exercise can be particularly effective in those suffering from arthritis and other joint-related diseases. Regular exercise is a great way to increase flexibility and improve mobility in adults with arthritis.

Reduced Risk of Falling

Overall improved flexibility and improved strength will make seniors less likely to fall and injure themselves due to unforeseen accidents.

A Balanced Exercise Program is Best 

Adults of all ages need several types of fitness training, including aerobic exercise to maintain a healthy heart and strength training to preserve muscle and bone mass. These include activities such as brisk walking, aerobic classes, aquatic aerobics, swimming, cycling, and even dancing.

For strength training, you can work with resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or even your own body weight by doing exercises like push-ups and squats. Aerobic exercise alone isn't enough to boost bone density. You need to work your muscles against resistance too.

Balance training is helpful too for lowering the risk of falls. Regardless of age, everyone needs strength training to build and preserve muscle strength and muscle mass. Studies show that even seniors in the ninth decade of life can improve muscle strength and size through strength training.

Adults who have never strength trained before can start with lighter weights and do higher repetitions. The goal is to fatigue the muscles until it's difficult to do another repetition. It's helpful to have assistance or even a personal trainer at first to learn how to do the movements safely.

The Bottom Line 

It's never too late to get the health benefits of moving your body. As studies continue to come out, it is becoming more evident that exercise has many health benefits for older adults. Remember: a healthy body is a key to a happy life!