Exercise is beneficial at any age. It can produce a healthier heart, stronger bones and improved flexibility. There are some additional benefits for seniors. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, lower the chance of injury and can even improve one’s mood.
Our muscle mass begins to decrease as we age. After entering our forties, adults can lose 3-5% of muscle mass with each passing decade. Muscle is an essential contributor to our balance and bone strength; it keeps us strong. Our mobility and independence become compromised without it.
Exercise is also important for our cognitive functions. Scientists have found that brain neurons increase after a few weeks of regular exercise. In fact, some researchers found that those people who walk three or more times a week have a 35% lower rate of dementia than those seniors who were not involved in any type of physical activity.
• Improved healing and function – Regular exercise by seniors may decrease the time it takes for a wound to heal by 25%. Also, a healthy, strong body can better fight off infection and recover more easily from illness or injury.
• Prevention of disease or chronic conditions – According to the National Institute of Aging, exercising as a senior may delay or even prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease and osteoporosis.
• Increased balance and stability – Falls are the number one injury among seniors, and regular exercise can help reduce the number of falls. Falling leads to injuries like broken hips or other bones, and exercise is a key component to improve functional reach and balance.
• Improved quality of life and increased life expectancy – New studies have found that seniors who exercise experience psychological benefits in addition to improving their physical fitness. Exercise can actually help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve the mood in general. The increased mobility that comes from regular, moderate exercise can help a senior maintain his or her independence if it is done on a long-term basis. Consistency is far more important than intensity.
It is never too late for seniors to start engaging in a regular exercise routine. The key is to find something you enjoy doing, and start at a level that is easy to maintain.