Exercise is an essential aspect of life for people of all ages. Regular physical movement has proven benefits in many parts of a person’s life, from joint health to improved cognitive function. And exercising regularly is especially important for seniors.
As we age, our bodies change, and so do our needs. Seniors are at exceptionally high risk of developing new health problems, losing muscle mass, decreased stamina, and injury from falls. All of these problems make starting and maintaining an exercise habit more difficult. They also make living independently a challenge.
It can take a lot of work for seniors to incorporate regular exercise into their routines. This is especially true if they cope with limited mobility or chronic health problems. But luckily, even 5 to 10 minutes of movement can produce noticeable health benefits and help jumpstart an exercise plan for seniors that will allow them to live more independent and healthy lives.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
There are many proven benefits to regular exercise, especially for seniors. These benefits include physical and mental health. A little exercise can go a long way to helping seniors manage current health problems and prevent more significant issues down the road.
Improve General Health
A regular exercise plan can help to improve a person’s overall immune function and help to prevent many health problems, including colon cancer and diabetes. An exercise plan is a great idea even for those in good health because it can have many short and long-term benefits. Building good habits now may prevent future health problems, but it will also make it easier to maintain an exercise plan if a senior’s health goes downhill.
Improve Heart Health
Regular aerobic exercise can vastly improve heart health for many seniors. For those with hypertension, it can reduce blood pressure, and for many, it can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Improve Bone and Joint Health
Exercise can help improve bone and joint health for everyone, but it is especially important for seniors dealing with arthritis and a general decrease in strength and stamina. A lack of physical activity brought on by declining health usually causes this decrease. Exercise can help maintain healthy bones and joints, as well as help control joint swelling and pain from arthritis.
Improve Muscle Health
Muscle-strengthening activities can be just as crucial as aerobic activities. Building and maintaining muscle strength can reduce the risk of falls and make everyday tasks easier. These increase the likelihood that a senior can stay independent and live in their own house for longer.
Improving joint and muscle health can also help improve balance in seniors. As they age, seniors are at a greater risk of falls that can result in breaks or fractures. These injuries can take a long time to heal correctly and dramatically decrease a senior’s ability to live independently. Building strength through regular exercise can help prevent these falls in the first place.
Improve Cognitive Health
Incorporating regular physical activity into a senior’s life can also improve cognitive health. For example, studies show that regular exercise can reduce the risk of dementia. But aerobic exercise especially can help slow any shrinkage in the hippocampus, which is the memory area of the brain.
Improve Emotional Health
And although physical health is essential, we can’t forget about mental health. Regular exercise can improve emotional health by producing endorphins, also known as “feel-good” hormones. These hormones can help:
- Improve mood
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce depression
- Improve sleep
Exercise Tips for Getting Started with Better Health
The great thing about all of this is the exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. For example, just daily walks alone can have noticeable benefits. Even seniors with no strength or stamina to do a prolonged exercise routine can benefit from a daily walk. And if the senior can maintain a short exercise routine, it can be added onto slowly over time. For example, seniors could extend their daily walk or turn it into a jog. But the key things to remember are that each person should adjust their routine to what makes them comfortable. Pushing too hard to increase the duration or intensity of a workout can result in injury.
Activities like walking, gardening, and yard work are among the most popular exercises for seniors. These activities can be done in short bursts and can result in an excellent end product like a well-maintained yard or garden.
Why Community is Important
Social support can be crucial to maintaining regular physical activity and is highly beneficial to mental health. Physical limitations can make getting out of the house and maintaining friendships difficult for many seniors. But having a set exercise routine with friends can help strengthen friendships and maintain motivation for exercise. Even a daily walk with friends helps keep a routine going and allows everyone to socialize. Maintaining social ties can be very important to seniors and helps alleviate loneliness and depression.
Many places offer community-based programs focusing on aerobic, strengthening, or flexibility-based exercises for seniors. A community can do a lot for its senior citizens by providing protected locations to walk in all weather, like malls. Many places also provide transportation to parks and facilities that offer exercise programs. Communities that connect with seniors and plan activities that encourage physical activity set their citizens up for success.
Before You Start Your New Routine
Of course, before you or a loved one starts making significant changes to your exercise routine, consult a doctor. Talking to a professional is especially important when transitioning from no exercise to a new exercise routine. Easing into any activity can go a long way toward preventing injury. When starting out, modified or low-impact exercises may be the way to go. Keep in mind that everyone is different and has different limits. A professional can help tailor an exercise plan for seniors that acknowledges each individual and their limitations.
Exercise and Healthy Eating go Hand in Hand
A healthy exercise habit is easier to maintain with a well-rounded diet. And our dietary needs change as we grow older. Changes in activity levels, hormones, and metabolism lead to different nutritional needs. You should not ignore these changes. Before making any significant changes to a diet or exercise routine, check in with a dietitian and make sure that you and your loved ones are getting all the nutrients you need out of your meals. Healthy eating is essential to a healthy life.
And suppose grocery shopping or cooking healthy meals daily is difficult because of factors like disability or chronic illness. In that case, you may be eligible for our program, Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa.
Meal on Wheels of Contra Costa
Meal on Wheels of Contra Costa is a program dedicated to ensuring every senior in our community has access to healthy and nutritious meals. Our senior meal programs deliver food right to the doors of those in need and provide vital community support. We connect with seniors to provide home delivery meals to homebound citizens who cannot go grocery shopping or cook nutritious meals for themselves. Call us today and find out if this program is right for you or your loved ones.