As we age, our bodies experience physical changes that can make it more difficult to stay active. In fact, by the time aging adults reach their forties, they can lose three to five percent of muscle mass with each passing decade. Along with the natural deterioration of muscle mass, the CDC reports that by age 75, one in three men and one in two women no longer engage in regular physical activity, demonstrating that inactivity tends to increase with age. A common misconception among seniors is that the older you get the less active you automatically become. While it is true that aging brings with it a decrease in muscle mass which can lead to compromised balance and weaker bones, by not exercising you will certainly escalate these issues. In addition, seniors who do not make time for exercise are also at risk to develop diabetes, physical disabilities and cognitive decline. When your body is strong and healthy it is more likely to better fight off infection and recover from an illness.
Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
· Improved healing and function: Regular exercise may decrease the length of time it takes for a wound to heal by 25%. A strong and healthy body is able to fight off infection and makes a recovery from illness or injury easier.
· Improves Balance and Stability: As seniors age their muscles begin to atrophy and muscle mass is decreased. This results in balance and stability issues. This results in injuries from falls such as broken hips or other bones. Exercise is a key component in helping to improve functional reach and balance. Tai Chi is a wonderful exercise for seniors and it has been found to increase upper and lower body strength and flexibility thus reducing the risk of falling.
· Prevention of disease or chronic conditions: The Institute for Aging has reported that a senior who exercises may delay or even prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis and heart disease.
· Improved Quality of Life and Expectancy: It has been found that seniors who exercise experience psychological benefits as well as the physical. Exercise can help to alleviate depression and improve one’s mood overall. The increased mobility that goes hand in hand with exercise can help a senior maintain their independence. However, the exercise must be a commitment and done on a long-term basis.
· Social Engagement: Whether you join a fitness group or walking group exercise can be made into a fun social event. Maintaining strong social ties is important for aging adults to feel a sense of purpose and avoid feelings of loneliness.
One of the key components to aging well is exercise! It is preferable that this be started in your younger years but it is never too late to start to see the benefits. Another component to a successful exercise program is to do something that you enjoy.
There are 4 types of exercises:
· Strength Training
· Balance Exercises
· Flexibility Exercise
A senior may start out trying several different exercise programs but may find one that they really enjoy. And if they enjoy it they will want to continue. Seniors should be encouraged to make exercise a priority and a habit in their daily routines. If their exercise program does not include all 4 of the types of exercises, they should be encouraged to try to find a way to work those into their schedule for maximum benefits. No matter what your age I hope that the benefits of exercise I have outlined will motivate you to incorporate it into your daily routine.