The benefits of exercise are well known, whether it’s an improved appearance and stronger bones or greater flexibility and a healthier heart. But exercise offers many lesser-known benefits, especially exercise for seniors. Not only can it provide physical advantages, but exercise and mental health have long been linked and it can even help improve memory.
Mall Walkers – All Ages!
According to AARP, 60 percent of people 64 and older are sedentary. Those are some dismal statistics for a demographic of people who probably need physical activity most. But at 7 in the morning inside malls across America, when the stores are still closed and most of the employees are still sleeping, one group of people is hard at work – the mall walkers! In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists shopping malls as the second-most popular venue for walking in the country, next to neighborhoods. Many of these walkers are senior citizens who understand the importance of keeping their joints and lungs active.
Some worry that exercise for seniors may cause injury or illness while others mistakenly believe they’ll wind up having to do something strenuous they may not be capable of. The truth is, it may be riskier for seniors to not exercise! Many characteristics we associate with aging, such as difficulty walking long distances, climbing stairs or even memory problems are largely due to a lack of physical activity.
Like those mall walkers, seniors can benefit tremendously from regular exercise. Senior can also consider:
- Brisk walking in a park or in the neighborhood
- Light jogging
- Bike riding
- Balance exercises prevent falls
- Flexibility exercises stretch and stay limber
The CDC has reported that because seniors have a higher risk for the health problems, they have even more to gain than younger people by becoming more active. Even moderate physical activity can help seniors to:
Improve memory and increase mental capacity
Research show that exercise and mental health are linked, with it physical activity helping to slow mental decline. Exercise increases blood flow to the body, including the brain, with many studies finding it may even promote cell growth. Consistent exercise has even shown to be beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Prevent illness and disease
Physical activity may delay or prevent many diseases associated with aging, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, colon cancer and more. According to the National Institute of Aging, exercise for seniors can even reduce hospitalization and death rates.
Speed up healing
Did you know that wounds and other injuries take longer to heal as we age? Not only can older adults improve memory with exercise, but when they do so regularly, they can speed up the healing process by as much as 25 percent.
Enhance quality of life
Senior Journal found in a recent study that senior citizens who were once sedentary but took up exercise in their daily life later on not only improved physical function, but also experienced psychological benefits. Just another sign that exercise and mental health are linked.
Better life expectancy
Exercise can add years to the live of active people, but there’s evidence that even moderate physical activity can make a difference.
When it comes to exercise for seniors, it’s not just for those in the younger age range. Those who are 85 and older can also find long-lasting benefits by maintaining an active lifestyle. If you or your senior family member are looking for a way to improve memory, stay healthy and live well in the golden years, exercise is the key to achieving that and more.