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Seniors and Exercise

As people age, exercise is the key to staying strong, energetic and healthy. As we grow older our body’s metabolism naturally slows down, making it increasingly difficult for seniors to maintain a healthy weight.

The answer is exercise.

Exercise helps speed up the body’s metabolism and builds muscle mass, so engaging in physical activity regularly makes it easier for seniors to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also helps manage pain and the symptoms of many illnesses. It’s also believed that, in some cases, it can reverse some of the symptoms of aging. Regular exercise can prevent, or at least delay the progression of diabetes and heart disease. It is even possible to reduce arthritis pain with a simple regimen of walking. Other benefits of regular exercise include improved immune function, better blood pressure, better bone density and better digestive functioning. Seniors who exercise have a lower risk of several chronic conditions including osteoporosis and colon cancer.

But that’s only the physical benefits of exercise. Regular exercise also benefits the brain by keeping it active. This can prevent or at least slow the progression of memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia. It may even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The endorphins produced by exercising can help reduce feelings of sadness or depression and can give renewed energy. Regular physical exercise can also help with insomnia and other sleep disorders, leading to a deeper and better quality of sleep.

When developing an exercise program for seniors, there are four types of exercises that should be included, when possible.

Cardio Endurance Exercises

Activities like walking, swimming or bike riding benefit the health of the heart, lungs and circulatory system. They also build stamina and staying power. This increased stamina can help seniors live independently as they’re able to continue to perform basic tasks such as climbing stairs, cleaning, running errands or grocery shopping.

Strength Exercises

Using free weights, machines or elastic resistance bands helps build muscle, improve balance and prevents or slows age-related loss of muscle and bone mass. Strength is a critical factor in staying active and avoiding falls. Strength building exercises can also help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, increase metabolism, and keep weight issues and blood sugars in check. Increasing strength can help seniors stay independent by making many day-to-day activities easier, such as opening jars, carry groceries, lifting objects, and getting in and out of cars.

Balance Exercises

Balance exercises are extremely important as they can help prevent falls – the most common and most dangerous problem for seniors. Falls are a major cause of broken hips and other injuries for seniors that can lead to disabilities and loss of independence. These exercises can be very simple, such as practicing standing on one leg, or much more complicated and involved balance exercises like yoga or Tai Chi.

Flexibility Exercises

As we age muscles become shorter and lose their elasticity. Flexibility exercises keep the body agile by stretching the muscles and tissues that hold all the body’s structures in place. Simple stretching exercises give more freedom of movement, increasing the ability to perform many basic day-to-day tasks like tying your shoes, reaching for objects, or looking behind you.

We can’t prevent aging, but many of the things that happen to the body in the aging process can be controlled, slowed, or even reversed with regular exercise. Whether you go to the gym, walk to the store, rake some leaves, or lift some weights, seniors need to get active to stay active. Regular exercise and physical activity can have a big impact on a senior’s life by boosting energy, improving health, engaging the mind, and maintaining independence.

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